(WFRV) – The first-ever criminal conviction under Wisconsin’s invasive species law, relating to the importation of live red swamp crayfish was announced on October 31.

The announcement was made by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and it states that the investigation was launched in 2020 after several grocery stores were selling live red swamp crayfish.

Although red swamp crayfish are native to the southern United States, they are not native to the northern states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

“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,” said Lt. Warden Robert Stroess, DNR Administrator of Commercial Fish and Aquatic Species in Trade Enforcement.

Back in 2020, when the investigation was launched, an ‘aggressively acting’ crayfish was reported in Ozaukee County. The escaped crayfish was tracked to a home 340 feet away, where a crayfish boil had taken place a few weeks earlier.

Officials say that among those that were distributing crayfish illegally was the Louisiana Crawfish Company. According to the DNR, the Louisiana Crawfish Company received the letter that informed them of the illegal activity.

However, the company allegedly continued to ship nearly 13,000 more invasive crayfish to Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Louisiana Crawfish Company with 15 criminal counts of intentionally transporting, possessing, or transferring invasive species.

On August 25, the Dane County Circuit Court accepted a guilty plea from the company. The court then convicted the company of 10 criminal counts and ordered the company to pay $34,380 in fines, fees, and assessments.

“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,” said Lt. Warden Stroess.

More information about invasive species in Wisconsin can be found here.