Houma, Louisiana. — Alligator season is underway in Louisiana, meat prices are high, and industry insiders expect a bumper harvest this year.
Alligators bring in about $250 million a year to the state, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Hide prices have been falling due to oversaturated markets, but meat prices have risen, industry officials said.
Wild alligator skins sold for $7.50 a foot last year, bringing in $780,900 to Louisiana, state data show. Farm-raised crocodiles were sold in centimeters and brought in more revenue, at $6.50 per centimeter, for a total of $66.29 million.
The meat alone brings in more than $10 million a year in Louisiana, said Jeb Linscombe, crocodile program manager at the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Last year, Louisiana sold 1.1 million pounds of farm-raised alligator meat for a total of $7.8 million, according to the agency’s 2020-21 annual report. Hunters who caught wild alligators sold 315,100 pounds of meat for a total of $2.2 million.
For hunters, it’s both lucrative and fun.
“I drove 2,000 miles for this,” said Larry Casler, 72, of Ontario, Canada. He caught and shot two of the three alligators hauled in September. 2 Travel with Houma safari guides Nicholas Cocke and Joshua Bridges in Terrebonne Parish.
Randy Rochel and his son, Randy Rochel Jr. This season, which began in August, Gibson earned the tag for killing 25 alligators. 31st until October. 31. The pair caught four alligators in September. 2, Rochelle said he has four tags left. This is their first year hunting alligators, and they expect to make a combined $2,000.
“It’s good for us,” said Rochelle Sr. Say. “It’s not much, but it can recoup your expenses and give you something new.”
Linscombe predicts that if there are no storms this season, 20,000 to 25,000 wild alligators will be harvested across the state.
Yvette Pitre is Cut Off’s local crocodile processor, which he buys from hunters and farms. Her husband, Tab Pitre, took over the Louisiana Bayou Bites company from his father in 2002. Since the History Channel show “Swamp Man” started in 2010, taste buds have become more adventurous, and demand for alligator meat has increased, Pitres said.
“We were able to push the market up by $1.50 to $2, and we passed that directly to the fishermen because without them we would have no business,” said Yvette Pitre, adding that many hunters lost their homes or jobs in Hurricane Ida.
The company sells alligators in small bags filled with red or white meat. White meat sells for about $12 to $14 a pound in stores, while red meat sells for $7 to $8 a pound, Tab Pitre said.
Linscombe said the increase in demand and prices is consistent with what he’s seeing statewide.
A typical alligator that Pitres receives is about 7 feet long, sells for about $100, and produces 20-30 pounds of meat. Pitres are open year-round, but about 75% of business is done during alligator season. She said it was a crazy season, with people working around the clock to handle the goods by hand.
Al Mahler, owner of Big Al’s Seafood in Houma, buys and sells alligators for his restaurant and looks forward to a good season. He also received tags for harvesting 13 alligators on the land he owns. As of September, the season was slow, Mahler said. 2, but he expects it to get busier soon because of the Labor Day holiday.
The state’s regulation of wild alligators has brought them back from what was once endangered, Linscombe said.
Over the past 50 years, Louisiana’s wild alligator population has grown from less than 100,000 to more than 2 million, Louisiana officials said. Additionally, there are nearly 1 million alligators on Louisiana farms.
The tagging system incentivizes landowners to protect alligators, Linscombe said. The number of tags issued each year depends on the alligator’s reproductive capacity.
“So because it’s a commercial gain, essentially, my predecessor created a program that was financially beneficial to the landowner, so what it did was provide an economic incentive to conserve the resource, and that’s what they’ve recovered so dramatically. reason,” he said.
This regulatory approach has been so successful that other countries are starting to follow suit, Linscombe said.
“We have healthier crocodile populations than we’ve had in 100 years,” he said. “So you have other, say, crocodile species that are already endangered in African countries, and instead of trying to make fishing them illegal, what they’re trying to do is develop a fishing plan so that these indigenous cultures have value crocodiles, not just Treat it as a dangerous animal and kill them.”