The Missouri Department of Conservation works with and for Missourians to sustain healthy fish, forest and wildlife resources. A regulation change to limit the importation, sale or purchase of live crayfish in the state will help prevent invasions of non-native crayfish and help protect our waters and wildlife.
The reason for the regulation change, which takes effect March 1, 2012, is to prevent further ecological damage to Missouri waters and wildlife by non-native crayfish species, which displace native crayfish, can introduce new parasites and diseases, and can alter and harm entire aquatic systems. Moving crayfish species native to one region of the state to new regions or bodies of water in the state where they are not native poses threats similar to importing non-native species.
This regulation change limits the sale, purchase and importation of live crayfish in the state to human consumption, scientific research or as food for confined animals kept by approved entities such as research institutions, agencies or publicly owned zoos. The regulation prohibits the importation, sale or purchase of live crayfish in the state for all other uses, such as fishing bait, pond stocking or as pets or pet food. Buying or selling live crayfish taken from waters of the state already was prohibited before approval of the new rule.
Here are key details of the regulation change:
Regulation Details: In August 2011, the Missouri Conservation Commission approved an amendment to the Wildlife Code of Missouri that limits selling, buying and importing live crayfish in the state to human consumption, scientific research or as food for confined animals kept by approved entities such as research institutions, agencies or publicly owned zoos. Scientific research does not include educational purposes such as class dissections or other demonstrations. The regulation prohibits the importation, sale or purchase of live crayfish in the state for all other uses such as fishing bait, pond stocking or as pets or pet food.
Reasons for the New Regulation: Research shows that the introduction of non-native crayfish species in half of all states in the U. S. and many Canadian provinces has caused ecological damage to entire aquatic food chains and economic damage from decreased fishing opportunities. The introduction of non-native species of crayfish has displaced many types of native species including other crayfish along with insects, mollusks, fish, amphibians and reptiles. The introduction of non-native crayfish species has caused declines in sport fish through the destruction and elimination of spawning and nursery habitat and predation on fish eggs. It has also altered the ecological functioning of streams and lakes. Moving crayfish species native to one region of the state to new regions or bodies of water in the state where they are not native poses threats similar to importing non-native species.
Known Impacts of Non-Native Crayfish to Missouri: From reports by citizens, universities, field staff and other resource agencies, MDC has confirmed 21 invasions of non-native crayfish, resulting in declines of seven native species, including three recognized as state “species of conservation concern.” Staff predicts that there are many more such invasions that remain undiscovered.
Known Causes of Non-Native Crayfish Entering New Waters: Most North American invasions are thought be a result of anglers using non-native crayfish as bait and releasing live bait into bodies of water. Despite ongoing public education about invasive species, a recent MDC survey of anglers shows that 40% of anglers report releasing live bait into fishing waters. Known causes of invasions in other states and Canadian provinces include distribution and release through the aquaculture industry, the pet and aquarium industry and through the biological supply trade.
Harm from Moving Crayfish Species Around the State: Many bodies of water around the state have unique plant and animal communities that can be harmed by species not naturally found in those communities. Moving crayfish species native to one region of the state to new regions or bodies of water in the state where they are not native poses threats similar to importing non-native species. In 40% of Missouri’s known invasions, the invading species already appear on the state’s Approved Aquatic Species List (AASL) and have been sold by Missouri aquaculturists and bait shops. The list allows four crayfish species to be sold; all are “native” to some part of Missouri, but none are native to the entire state. Three of these species (Virile/Northern Crayfish, White River Crawfish, Red Swamp Crawfish) are proven invaders in other states.
Catching and Using Live Crayfish: Anglers in possession of a valid fishing license may harvest a maximum of 150 crayfish per day from Missouri waters. Anglers are strongly encouraged to fish with live crayfish bait only on the body of water where the crayfish were collected, and then to dispose of any leftover bait appropriately. Transportation of live crayfish across drainages or regions of the state is strongly discouraged.
Releasing Live Bait: Anglers should not release any live bait back into waters, including minnows, worms and other live bait. The release to the wild of live crayfish or any other bait is a violation of the Wildlife Code of Missouri.
Using Dead Crayfish: Anglers may purchase dead or preserved crayfish for use as bait. Educators may purchase dead or preserved crayfish for use in classrooms.
Raising, Selling and Transporting Live Crayfish: Missouri aquaculturists may raise crayfish in Missouri and sell them live, out of state, as long as the transaction occurs out of state. Sellers must abide by regulations of the state in which the sale occurs. Producers may also move crayfish stock from one production facility to another as long as no sale or purchase is involved. Live crayfish may be bought or sold only for human consumption, scientific research or as food for animals confined by an approved entity.
Seller Responsibility for Customer Use of Live Crayfish: Sellers are not responsible for actions of customers who state that their purchase of live crayfish is for human consumption or other approved purposes but then use those crayfish for fishing bait.
Importation of Live Crayfish: The importation of live crayfish into Missouri is prohibited unless the crayfish are received only for human consumption, scientific research or as food for animals confined by an approved entity.
Selling Dead Crayfish: Missouri aquaculturists may raise crayfish in Missouri and sell them dead or preserved within or outside of the state.
Buying Live Crayfish: People may purchase live crayfish within Missouri and/or import live crayfish into Missouri only for human consumption, scientific research or as food for animals confined by an approved entity.
Selling Other Bait: The new regulation does not apply to other types of bait. Bait dealers should refer to the “Prohibited Species List” of the Wildlife Code of Missouri to avoid any import or sale of prohibited species, which is a violation of the Wildlife Code.
Selling Quantities of Live Fish That May Contain Live Crayfish: A few specimens of live crayfish incidentally included in the sale of fish is not a violation of the new regulation.
SUPPORTING RESEARCH FINDINGS
40% of anglers surveyed by MDC continue to release live bait in waters where they fish.
An MDC study of Missouri’s bait industry conducted from 2002 to 2007, found that current approaches to crayfish bait regulation, regulation enforcement and regulation management have not adequately protected Missouri’s fisheries from non-native crayfish invasions.
· 27% of shops were selling illegal species of crayfish, including the highly invasive rusty crayfish.
· More than 50% of bait shops were selling species of crayfish not native to regions where they were being sold.
· 97% of bait shop owners admitted or demonstrated that they didn’t know what species of crayfish they sold.
· MDC inspections of bait shops found that many were unable to produce legally-required transaction receipts, many crayfish were being obtained from outside of Missouri and some shops were illegally selling crayfish collected from the wild.
MDC surveys conducted during the summers of 2010 and 2011 found:
· About 30% of Missouri’s 160 bait shops derive an average of 7% of their annual income from live crayfish sales, with 1% being the most commonly reported value.
· About 29% of Missouri’s 57 aquaculturists derive an average of 4% of their annual income from live crayfish sales, with 0 to 2% being the most commonly reported values.
· About 10% of 188 Missouri pet shops surveyed reported selling live crayfish, with those sales amounting to an average of 1% of their total annual income.
· About 70% of all 70 Missouri commercial fishers who use bait were either strongly or somewhat supportive of proposed regulation language that would prohibit live crayfish bait sales and purchase, but still allow for anglers and commercial fishermen to catch and use their own live crayfish bait wherever they choose. About 17% were either strongly or somewhat opposed to the proposed regulation language. About 91% of written comments supported the proposed regulation language.
· About 12% of 2,612 high school science teachers and 40% of 58 college and university natural resources, biology and environmental science departments surveyed reported using live crayfish for educational purposes. About 72% of high school teachers and 54% of college instructors obtained their live crayfish from the wild. About 12% of high school teachers and 7% of college instructors got live crayfish from five biological supply companies. 64% of educators admitted releasing live crayfish to the wild after use, although several regulations already prohibit such release.
Information provided by:
Missouri Department of Conservation