Deadly virus threatens local crawfish industry

Published: May. 23, 2017 at 10:16 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 2, 2017 at 10:18 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JENNINGS, LA (KPLC) - A deadly virus is threatening the crawfish industry in Southwest Louisiana.

It's called white spot syndrome virus and it was first discovered in Thailand, but somehow it made its way to ponds in South Louisiana and specialists are struggling to find the funds to research a solution.

"The catch was increasing and increasing and then it dropped 70% and that's when you saw the dead crawfish floating in the water," said a crawfish farmer of 34 years, Ian Garbarino.

He says the drop happened overnight. Garbarino took a sample to be tested at LSU, and the results came back positive –white spot syndrome virus had hit his ponds.

"It doesn't affect people but it does affect your bottom line and that is frustrating," said Garbarino.

This virus, named after the white spots that develop on the shell, only affects crustaceans. They die before they ever make it to market.

It won't affect the crawfish you eat, but it's causing major problems for the industry.

"The virus will kill some of the larger crawfish in the pond," said Aquacultural Specialist, Mark Shirley. "A crawfish farmer will notice his catch drops off dramatically over the course of 5 to 7 days. He'll go from catching 40 to 50 sacks to just one sack. You'll notice some dead crawfish in the traps and on the edges of the pond."

Shirley says not much is known about the virus in crawfish, since it was mainly an issue with the shrimp industry in Asia.

"It's just we don't have enough info on how it affects we do know it kills them but we don't know how to manage it to keep it out of crawfish ponds," said Shirley.

Back in 2007, cases started to pop up here in South Louisiana. 
Now in 2017, it seems it's starting to spread and no one knows how. It's been found in Vermillion, Jeff Davis, and Acadiana parishes.

A meeting was held today in Jennings to not only educate local crawfish farmers but also to get feedback and figure out how extensive the problem is.

"It's a very big industry to our state and this virus does pose a threat to that industry," said Shirley.

Click HERE to learn more about the virus and its symptoms.

Click HERE to learn how to manage the virus and how to test your crawfish.

Copyright 2017 KPLC. All rights reserved.