First convictions under invasive species laws hit crayfish company

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The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced the first criminal convictions under the state’s Invasive Species Act, Chapter NR 40. In this case, the species was an imported red swamp crayfish, native to southern the United States. The red swamp crayfish, however, is not native to northern states including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

The investigation was launched in 2020 after live red crayfish were listed for sale in several grocery stores. It wasn’t long before the DNR received a report from an Ozaukee County walker who encountered a crayfish “acting aggressively.” MNR law enforcement tracked the crawfish to a house about 340 feet away, where a crawfish boil had occurred a few weeks prior. Further investigation, according to an MNR press release, revealed evidence that red swamp crayfish had been imported in droves throughout the Great Lakes region.

“These crayfish are illegal in Wisconsin because they wreak havoc on our waterways by out-competing other species, damaging shorelines and burrowing deep into the ground to avoid winter freeze-ups,” Lt. Warden Robert Stroess, DNR Administrator of Commercial Fish and Aquatic. Cash in Commerce app. “They are prolific and resilient.” Crayfish distributors have received letters advising them that importing the species is illegal in many jurisdictions. The Louisiana Crawfish Company was one of the companies contacted. Still, according to the DNR, the company continued to ship nearly 13,000 more invasive crawfish to Wisconsin after receiving the letter.

“Despite our best efforts, education and awareness don’t always change the behavior of some people and businesses,” Lt. Warden Stroess said. “Sometimes enforcement is necessary.” The Wisconsin Department of Justice has charged the Louisiana Crawfish Company with 15 counts of intentionally transporting, possessing or transferring invasive species. On August 25, the Dane County Circuit Court accepted a guilty plea from the company. The company was found guilty of 10 counts and ordered to pay $34,380 in fines, costs and assessments. A plea deal led to the dismissal of five counts. “Our hope is that the outcome of this case may deter other wholesale distributors from preventing the invasive red swamp crayfish from entering Wisconsin,” Lt. Warden Stroess said.

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