Fun run helps crabbers in a pinch

by Mary Tutwiler

It helps to do a little road work before you chow down.

That's what any trainer will tell you, but in this case, the run supports crab fishermen, who have been having a tough time since the BP oil spill.

The event, sponsored by the Lieutenant Governor's office, is a Fisheries Fun Run to benefit Operation Blessing International's Crab Fisherman Project. The 2-mile Fisheries Fun Run will take place on Sunday, Oct. 3 in downtown Baton Rouge. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the soft-shell crab shedding project established by Operation Blessing International in partnership with the LSU AgCenter/Louisiana Sea Grant Program and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

The Lieutenant Governor's office describes the crab shedding process like this:

The crab shedding systems were originally designed to aid fisherman during Hurricane Katrina recovery and have again become necessary as many Gulf Coast waters are closed to fishing. Crab shedding systems allow fishermen to retain hard-shell crabs prior to shedding and serve as holding tanks until they shed and become soft-shell crabs, where they can be sold for more than twice as much. In order to create an aquatic environment where the shedding process can take place, a system is composed of a series of shallow tanks, piping, water pumps and filters that enable water to circulate over the crabs until they shed their hard shells.

One crab shedding system can expect to yield approximately 600 dozen soft-shell crabs in one season, averaging 10-12 dozen per week. Not only will this increase each family's income by estimated $14,000 annually, but the increase in availability of soft-shell crabs will benefit the restaurant industry as well by driving down prices. The crab shedding systems are manufactured in Westwego.

The run is designed to raise money to help include more crab fishers in the project. "For the fishermen, the crab shedding systems will not only help with an initial increase in income, but will increase the ability to maintain a reasonable income in the long-run," explains Operational Blessing International CEO Bill Horan. "Nearly 50 families applied to receive assistance through this project and initial funding available will only provide for 25. Over 20 families remain in need of assistance, and even more have yet to apply."

I'm thinking that in the same way purging crawfish makes our mudbugs more delectable, these crab-holding tanks will allow crabs time in clean water to rid themselves not only of their hard shells but also any residue of oil they may have encountered. It's making me feel better about the softshell crab poboy I've been drooling over but denying myself out of concerns over the safety of Gulf seafood. I'll report back on this when I get some info from Wildlife and Fisheries.

Race day festivities feature music, food and drinks, and runner's registration includes a Fisheries Fun Run t-shirt. Pre-registration for the Fisheries Fun Run is $15 and available at Fleet Feet Sports, located at 6251 Perkins Road in Baton Rouge.  Additionally, online pre-registration is available at Fun Run check-in and $20 on-site registration will begin at 4:00 PM at the Capitol Annex Building, located at 1051 N. Third St. in Baton Rouge.

For more information go to the CRT website or call 225 342-8110.