Ohio woman pleads guilty to selling invasive crayfish across 36 states
An Ohio woman pleaded guilty on Wednesday to selling crayfish online, a practice officials fear could allow the invasive creature to spread across the United States.
Allison Spaulding used online outlets, such as eBay and Craigslist, to sell various guppies and crayfish she bred in her home aquarium, which were then sold to people across 36 states in the U.S., a violation of the Lacey Act, according to the Guardian. The case marks the first action aimed at preventing the advancement of the marbled crayfish.
“We are trying to keep them off the landscape as they have the potential for serious environmental damage,” said Justus Nethero, wildlife investigator at the Ohio department of natural resources. “I hope this will be the springboard to this crayfish being federally listed as an invasive species because these things have to start somewhere.”
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Spaulding was selling the crayfish online at prices from $17 for two juveniles to $52 for a group of 40 crayfish, prosecutors allege.
The marbled crayfish can reproduce asexually, with a single creature able to lay up to 700 unfertilized eggs that develop into genetically identical offspring. This process allows the species to dominate any aquatic ecosystem in which it is placed.
The species has spread across waterways in Europe due to people dumping them into rivers, lakes, and toilets. The tiny eggs of the crayfish can also inadvertently get washed down drains when emptying aquarium tanks, which could be a pathway for the species into the U.S.
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A national ban has not yet been established in the U.S., though several states, such as Michigan, have already banned the species.
Spaulding faces a maximum penalty of a year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.