Lenten season brings booming business to La.'s seafood industry



Posted on March 5, 2014 at 7:19 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 5 at 7:21 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- To many Catholics, the Lenten season means fish on Fridays and Ash Wednesday.

Wednesday, the Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter was packed with customers chowing down on Louisiana seafood.

People in line, including native New Orleanian Rene Christian, were licking their chops.

"We grew up on seafood, you know gumbo, jambalaya, oysters, everything like seafood," said Christian.

Acme manager Scott Schick said Lent is a crucial time for many seafood restaurants.

"New Orleans is a big Catholic city," said Schick. "You know, so everybody wants their seafood, the catfish, the shrimp and of course the oysters."

Kenan Buchert at Kjeans seafood in Mid-City stocked his counter, expecting a rush of customers. He said shrimp, catfish and crabs are pretty plentiful this year, but crawfish is still is short supply because of the cold weather.

"Right now, we can't even sell live (crawfish)," said Buchert. "You know, prices are high. We're $3.99 a pound boiled, trying to keep them reasonable."

So just how important is the Lenten season to Louisiana seafood dealers?

"This is our Black Friday, when we come out of the red, you know, and start making some money," said Buchert.

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond said not eating meat on Fridays in Lent is supposed to be a sacrifice.

"The basis of that is really supposed to be sacrificial, not to eat meat on Friday, the Fridays of Lent," said Aymond. "For us in New Orleans and the south, that's not a sacrifice at all."

Back at Acme Oyster House, Rochelle Bastion agrees with the Archbishop.

"If you're going to stay away from meat for Lent and give up meat, but you're going to eat these kinds of oysters, that's not a sacrifice at all," said Bastion.

Aymond also settled the question of whether alligator is meat or seafood.

"I did some research and alligator is considered fish and not meat," he said. "I had to do research on that one, but that's fact."