$35K Fine For National Company; Wisconsin DNR 1st Criminal Conviction Over Invasive Species
According to a press release from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources the first-ever criminal conviction under the state’s invasive species law has occurred. The case involves the importation of live red swamp crayfish, which are native to southern states and are not native to northern states, which include Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.
Lt. Warden Robert Stroess, the DNR administrator of commercial fish and aquatic species in trade enforcement, said in the release that the red swamp crayfish are illegal in Wisconsin and harmful to waterways.
“These crayfish are illegal in Wisconsin because they cause havoc in our waterways by out-competing other species, damaging shorelines, and burrowing deep into the ground to avoid winter freezing. They are prolific and resilient.” -Lt. Warden Robert Stroess
An investigation was launched in 2020 after several grocery stores were found offering live red swamp crayfish for sale. It was at this time a walker in Ozaukee County reported an “aggressive,” unknown species, of crayfish.
According to the release, Lt. Warden Stroess tracked the escaped crayfish to a home 340 feet away. The culprit had escaped from a crayfish boil, which had taken place a few weeks earlier. Continued investigation revealed significant illegal importation of live red swamp crayfish throughout the Great Lakes region.
Any, and all, crayfish distributors found operating in the local area were sent letters informing them that the red swamp crayfish being shipped was illegal under many jurisdictions. Among those distributors was Louisiana Crawfish Company. The investigation showed that Louisiana Crawfish Company received the letter, confirmed its contents, but then continued to ship nearly 13,000 more invasive crayfish to Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice has now charged the Louisiana Crawfish Company with 15 criminal counts of intentionally transporting, possessing, or transferring an 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.
The Louisiana Crawfish Company's website now shows the regulations placed on them by the DNR; which include the states of Wisconsin and Illinois.
"Expenses associated with ecological damage and control of invasive species in the US were estimated at $137 billion per year in 2001 and have been increasing ever since. Additional global studies have found that invasive species alone cost a minimum of $35 billion per year in North America, not including the costs to human health."