As Minnesota resorts, restaurants and community groups start planning their annual crawfish boils, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources cautions it is illegal to import live crayfish and to release nonnative crayfish into the wild.
“Some nonnative crayfish pose serious risks to Minnesota fish, wildlife and infrastructure,” the DNR’s Chelsey Blanke said. “They can destroy aquatic plant beds, displace native species, compete with fish for prey and cause major declines in amphibian, invertebrate and waterfowl populations. Once introduced, invasive species of crayfish are extremely difficult to remove, due to their ability to burrow into shorelines, which can also be damaging to nearby infrastructure.
Some people import live crayfish for dining — including for crawfish boils, in which crayfish are boiled with seasonings — home or classroom aquariums, or fishing bait without realizing crayfish import is regulated in Minnesota. Crawfish, crayfish, and crawdads are the same species.
Thus far, Minnesotans have done good job of keeping the highly destructive Louisiana crayfish, also known as red swamp crayfish, out of state waters. There has been just one confirmation of Louisiana crayfish in Minnesota waters: in 2016, when two live specimens were removed from Lake Tilde in Clay County. In nearby southeastern Wisconsin, eradicating Louisiana crayfish from three ponds totaling 7.15 acres cost more than $750,000.
Legal alternatives to importing crayfish include:
Using native crayfish raised through aquaculture.
Using native crayfish from Minnesota waters, provided they are not moved to other waterbodies. Contact the DNR for a list of individuals permitted to harvest crayfish for sale in Minnesota: 651-259-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applying for a permit (go.usa.gov/xte4J) to import dead, frozen or pre-cooked Louisiana crayfish. Plan ahead: apply for a DNR permit at least a week before planning to order crayfish.
Additional information on these options is available on the options for crayfish consumption page of the DNR website (mndnr.gov/invasives/ais/crayfish-consumption.html).
Report new occurrences of Louisiana crayfish to the DNR immediately by contacting your DNR invasive species specialist (mndnr.gov/invasives/ais/contacts.html) or log in and submit a report through EDDMapS Midwest (eddmaps.org/midwest/report)