Transporting and storing live crawfish

     Live crawfish are not stored and transported in water, but in plastic mesh sacks. Sacks hold about 35 to 45 pounds of crawfish. Sacks are preferred over more rigid containers such as totes because crawfish can be packed in the sacks in a way that prevents damage from pinching, which can happen when animals are not sufficient restricted.

     Sacks should not be packed so tightly that animals are crushed, but tightly enough to restrict crawfish movement. Sacks of live crawfish can be transported in open-bed trucks for short distances, but sacks should be covered with a tarp to keep gills from drying out. Wholesalers or jobbers who haul sacks of live crawfish over long distances use insulated trucks, with or without refrigeration. Crushed ice is placed over the sacks in nonrefrigerated trucks, and sometimes in refrigerated trucks, to reduce crawfish metabolism and keep the humidity high, which increases the shelf life of live crawfish.

     To ensure a high survival rate during live transport, crawfish should be harvested from ponds with good water quality. Live crawfish should be transported to on-the-farm coolers or to the terminal market as soon after harvest as possible. Transport vehicles should be clean and free of petroleum products and other contaminates. If crawfish are to be transported in an open vehicle or hauled a long distance in the harvest boat, crawfish in sacks should be covered with wet burlap or a tarp to protect them from excessive wind and bright sunlight. Sacks should not be stacked so high that crawfish in the bottom sacks are crushed.

     Sacks of live crawfish in good physiological condition can be held in high humidity coolers at 38 to 46 °F for up to several days before they are peeled or transported to the final destination. The gills must be kept moist while crawfish are in coolers. This is usually accomplished by wetting them periodically and/or by covering them with wet burlap or ice. If crawfish are placed in plastic tote boxes, the top tote should be filled with ice. Melting ice will trickle down through the totes to provide the necessary moisture. Unchilled crawfish should not be placed in totes because they will remain active and may damage each other by pinching.

     A relatively small volume of live crawfish is shipped in sacks by air freight throughout the U.S. For air transport, crawfish are packed in insulated seafood shipping boxes containing frozen gel packs. During warm weather, crawfish to be shipped by air freight should first be cooled overnight.