Wisconsin DNR announces first invasive species criminal conviction

 A red swamp crayfish
A red swamp crayfish (WJRT)
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 3:50 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced Monday their first-ever criminal conviction under the state’s invasive species law.

The case involved the importation of live red swamp crayfish, which are native to southern states and are not native to northern states, including Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

Lt. Warden Robert Stroess, the DNR administrator of commercial fish and aquatic species in trade enforcement, says that red swamp crayfish are illegal in Wisconsin and harmful to waterways.

“They are prolific and resilient,” Lt. Warden Stroess said, adding that the crayfish out-compete other species, damage shorelines and burrow deep into the ground.

An investigation began in 2020 when several grocery stores were selling live swamp crayfish. Officials determined that there was a significant amount of illegal importation of the crayfish throughout the Great Lakes region, according to the DNR.

The distributors were informed that the crayfish were illegally imported. The investigation found that Louisiana Crawfish Company continued to ship nearly 13,000 more invasive crayfish to Wisconsin after receiving the notice of illegal importation.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice charged Louisiana Crawfish Company with 15 criminal counts of intentionally transporting, possessing or transferring invasive species. The company was convicted in Dane County Circuit Court of 10 criminal counts and was ordered to pay just under $35,000 in penalties.

“Our hope is the outcome of this case can serve as a deterrent to other wholesale distributors to keep invasive red swamp crayfish out of Wisconsin,” Lt. Warden Stroess said.

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