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Commercial Fishing

Harvesting, Processing, and Selling

LDWF’s mission to support commercial fishermen starts with managing the resource—ensuring that our fish and shellfish populations can reproduce and replenish their themselves before they are harvested. Our staff also works closely with the fishing industry to balance the needs of our state’s fisheries resources with the needs of those who harvest them for their livelihood as well as the public's enjoyment. More than 70% of the seafood and other fisheries products landed in the Gulf each year comes through Louisiana, creating a total annual economic impact of nearly $2 billion.

— Did You Know? —

LDWF and Louisiana Sea Grant offer a variety of education and training resources for the commercial seafood industry through Louisiana Fisheries Forward.


Louisiana’s commercial blue crab fishery is the largest in both the Gulf and the United States and supplies about a quarter of the blue crab harvested in the United States. LDWF, along with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, and the Louisiana Legislature, use data on Louisiana's blue crab population and harvests to manage the blue crab fishery to keep crab populations healthy and available for generations to come. Industry members also have the opportunity to participate in the management and development of this fishery through regular Louisiana Crab Task Force meetings. Louisiana has implemented management measures such as minimum size limits and escape rings, as well as a mandatory training for new commercial crabbers and derelict crab trap cleanups to ensure a sustainable blue crab fishery. In fact, Louisiana's blue crab fishery has been certified as sustainable by multiple organizations. 

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In Louisiana, oystermen fish public oyster grounds for seed oysters (less than 3 inches) and transplant them to private leases for cultivation and future harvest. They also harvest market-size oysters (3 inches or larger) from public grounds. This successful public-private partnership helps Louisiana continue to lead the nation in oyster production year after year. LDWF biologists assess oyster stocks on the public oyster grounds throughout the year. Managers use these assessments to set seasons and harvest limits; these management measures, combined with mandatory oyster harvester training, regular public input from the Louisiana Oyster Task Force, and water quality assessments from the Louisiana Department of Health, ensure our oyster industry provides a sustainable and safe product. Alternative oyster culture techniques are also paving the way for the development of new growing and harvest techniques in Louisiana's oyster industry.

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White and brown shrimp support the most valuable and the second largest commercial fishery in Louisiana. Louisiana is the top harvester of shrimp in the Gulf and the United States. Louisiana’s state waters are divided by the shrimp line into inside and outside waters for management purposes. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commissions sets seasons for these waters based on recommendations from LDWF's biologists who actively monitor shrimp populations and environmental conditions in Louisiana's waters as well as input from the industry through the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force. Adjusting seasons in response to this information helps fishermen have more productive shrimping trips. Shrimp fishery management also focuses on reducing and adverse impacts of shrimping on other species through regulations for net mesh size to reduce bycatch and requirements for Turtle Excluder Devices and tow time restrictions to allow incidentally captured sea turtles to escape. 

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Saltwater Finfish

Louisiana’s coastal waters provide some of the most productive natural habitats in the world, creating an environment that nurtures dozens of abundant inshore finfish species from spotted seatrout and black drum to sheepshead and shark. A number of offshore finfish species (managed by federal authorities) such as amberjack, snapper, grouper, and yellowfin tuna are also landed in Louisiana. These finfish resources provide tremendous opportunities for commercial fishing, making Louisiana a major source of domestic seafood and other fisheries products for the United States. LDWF regularly assesses the status of finfish populations in state waters, monitors commercial harvests through trip tickets, and updates management measures (seasons and limits) and plans accordingly to ensure these fisheries are operating sustainably. Input from the Louisiana Finfish Task Force, representatives from the commercial and recreational sectors, is valuable when determining management options.

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Freshwater Finfish

Louisiana commercial fishermen annually land more than 12 million pounds of freshwater finfish, including alligator gar; blue, channel, and flathead catfish; freshwater drum; buffalo fish; bowfin; carp; and shad. LDWF biologists routinely sample rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs with a variety of sampling gear to monitor these freshwater finfish resources; LDWF also requires dealers and fishermen who sell their own catch to submit trip tickets to document commercial harvests. These data, along with input from the Louisiana Finfish Task Force inform how these fisheries are managed through measures such as seasons and size limits.

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With more than 1,000 crawfish fishermen and more than 1,300 crawfish farmers, Louisiana leads the nation in crawfish production, supplying 100 to 120 million pounds per year. LDWF is responsible for monitoring and managing wild crawfish through gear, licensing, and reporting requirements (trip tickets). Since farm-raised crawfish are an agricultural product, they fall under the purview of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other agencies, but farmers must have the appropriate license from LDWF to sell their catch.

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Reptiles and Amphibians

Many Louisiana reptiles and amphibians are a source of commercial value, even those in your backyard. Frogs and turtles are a culinary tradition in Louisiana, and licensed commercial reptile and amphibian collectors occasionally sell snakes for meat. A couple dozen reptile and amphibian species are also valued as pets. LDWF biologists conduct surveys to monitor these species' populations; they suppplement these survey data with information about commercial harvests from trip tickets. LDWF, along with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, and the Louisiana Legislature, use all of these data to set regulations for reptile and amphibian collecting such as license requirements, legal collection methods, closed seasons and areas, and size and possession limits, to keep these populations healthy and available for generations to come.

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Dealers, Retailers, Processors, and Transporters

Louisiana's commercial fishermen and reptile and amphibian collectors are a vital part of the state’s economy, supporting numerous other jobs in the dealer, retailer, processor, and transporter sectors, among many others. Certain license requirements and regulations apply to these sectors. In addition, LDWF requires that dealers of fish and/or reptile/amphibian products submit trip tickets to capture information about commercial harvests of these species. LDWF uses this information to improve population assessments of our fish, shellfish, and wildlife resources and inform management. Dealers with federal permits have additional reporting requirements. 

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Louisiana Certified Seafood

Through the Louisiana Wild Seafood Certification Program, LDWF aims to build a brand that guarantees the origin of Louisiana wild-caught seafood. Through strict chain of custody requirements, the program guarantees that all seafood products bearing the Certified Louisiana Seafood label were caught in Louisiana or Gulf waters by a licensed Louisiana fisherman, landed at a Louisiana dock, and processed and packaged by a Louisiana-based company. The program provides education for participants on best seafood handling and sanitation practices to ensure the utmost safety and quality. When a buyer sees this label, they can be confident they’re buying authentic Louisiana wild-caught seafood—a premium product known for freshness, consistent quality, and sustainability, and that they’re supporting our local fishing communities.

By branding and showcasing Louisiana seafood, LWSCP helps suppliers increase the value of their seafood and remain competitive in the marketplace. LWSCP participants benefit from free marketing support, such as:

  • Market portal linking Certified Louisiana Seafood suppliers with buyers
  • Promotions through the program website, social media, and events including seafood festivals and industry conventions
  • Point-of-sale materials such as decals, brochures and apparel
  • Access to program partners including the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, Audubon GULF, NOAA Fisheries, Louisiana Sea Grant and other partners who purchase and promote Certified Louisiana Seafood.

Licensed Louisiana commercial fishermen are automatically eligible for the program; licensed Louisiana Fresh Products dealers and Wholesale/Retail Seafood dealers must obtain a permit to participate.

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