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Crayfish in Missouri

May 31, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Eleni Bickell and Dan English

Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans that look like small lobsters and like to feed on animals and plant material. Eight crayfish species are only found in Missouri, with some being currently considered endangered.

Missouri regulations do not allow release of crayfish anywhere other than where they are caught. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering listing two species of crayfish as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The Service will consider comments from all interested parties received by May 26, 2021.

Highlights

  • Different species of crayfish have different habitats. Crayfish offer a host of benefits to the ecosystem, such as providing a large food source for over 200 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals.
  • There are around 450 species of crayfish in the U.S. and about half of them are considered endangered or threatened.
  • In Missouri, there are 38 species of crayfish, from which 23 species are considered as species of conservation concern at risk of endangerment.
  • Crayfish tend to be competitive with other species, including different crayfish species, for the available habitat. One of the leading reasons why crayfish are at risk is because of their use as live bait, when they are caught and transported to different environments from where they were caught. And become invasive in these new environments.
  • Missouri crayfish regulations permit harvesting of any crayfish species except those that are protected. If the listing rule for the two crayfish in Missouri is finalized as proposed, it may become illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, ship, and import or export the two crayfish species.
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