09 December 2016

Listing a species as “injurious”

The Center for Invasive Species Prevention was about to ask the US Fish and Wildlife Service to add Louisiana red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) to a list of “injurious” species.

In the petition, the CISP says the red swamp crawfish does not provide any essential economic or other benefits that outweigh their current and potential harm to the United States. ...

If the proposed changes are adopted then it could limit or prohibit the sale and export of crawfish across state lines.

But the day after I read the news article announcing that, the Center backed off. Judging from the news story and memo, it looked like the petition caused a bit of a freak out among people who sell the beast for food.

I think it’s a very interesting window into regulation. Biologically, there is no question that P. clarkii is a problematic invasive. It’s caused problems worldwide, from being farmed for aquaculture and is one of the most widely distributed crayfish in the pet trade (one of the “big six” worldwide). I think you would be hard pressed to find any biologist specializing in crayfish or invasive species that wouldn’t consider P. clarkii an extremely successful and problematic invasive species.

But there is so much established trade already within the U.S. that it is completely unsurprising that there would be pressure to not change anything.

The food industry is large and powerful. So is the pet industry, the other main mover of crayfish today. And the trade is largely unregulated, particularly for invertebrates. Although crayfish are not particularly popular in the US as pets right now, the European experience in the 1990s shows that there could easily be a “boom” in interest.

External links

Are crawfish an invasive species? Warning: contains annoying auto-play video
Statement of the Center for Invasive Species prevention on withdrawing its proposal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add the red swamp crayfish to the Lacey act for further analysis

Picture by Michael Bok on Flickr.

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