DNR reminds Minnesotans to not import live crayfish

Illegal imports can cause major environmental, economic harm

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding Minnesotans that it is illegal to import any species of live crayfish into the state. Some people import live crayfish for dining, for aquariums or for fishing bait, without realizing Minnesota is one of at least nine states that prohibit live crayfish imports.

“Some nonnative crayfish pose serious risks to Minnesota fish, wildlife and infrastructure,” said, Chelsey Blanke, DNR aquatic invasive species analyst. “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 because they burrow into shorelines, which can also be damaging to nearby infrastructure.

Minnesotans have been doing a good job of keeping the highly destructive red swamp crayfish out of state waters. There has been just one confirmation of red swamp crayfish in Minnesota waters, when two live specimens were removed from Lake Tilde in Clay County in 2016.  The economic impact of invasive crayfish is significant. In nearby southeastern Wisconsin, eradicating red swamp crayfish from three ponds cost more than $750,000.

The DNR receives numerous questions this time of year about how to legally host a “crawfish boil,” a popular outdoor activity in which dozens of pounds of crayfish are boiled with seasonings and served to guests. Legal options include:

  • Using native crayfish raised through aquaculture.
  • Using rusty crayfish, a regulated invasive species that is already widely present in Minnesota (provided that they are not moved to other waterbodies).
  • Applying for a permit to import dead, frozen or pre-cooked red swamp crayfish.

Additional information on these options and a link to the permit application is available on the DNR website.

Report new occurrences of red swamp crayfish to the DNR immediately by contacting your DNR invasive species specialist or log in and submit a report through EDDMapS Midwest.


(Photo Courtesy of the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center)