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Coming Soon to an Ecosystem Near You April 29, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Educational Ranting, General Ranting, News and politics, Science and Technology.
Tags: , , , , , ,

This post might be for fishermen, boaters, pet shop owners, or teachers.  If the shoe fits, don’t throw it back in the water when you’re done with it.

The culprit

The Columbia River in Oregon has a crayfish problem.  Oddly enough, the problem is not too few crayfish, but too many of the wrong kind.  Invasive crayfish species from Louisiana and the American Midwest have hopped over the Continental Divide and are making their way down many creeks and rivers in Oregon.  Their final destination will be the Columbia River.  The problem is that these invasive crayfish, lets call them by their name, Orconectes rusticus,  a large, aggressive crayfish species originally found in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, are making their way into rivers and streams all over the US and even Canada.  They are aggressive enough to push out native species and soon, unless some solution is discovered, will be the only crayfish species in the US.

Invasive species are not so unusual in the US.  African Rock and Burmese Python as well as iguana and other large lizards are becoming more and more common in Florida.  Brazilian Fire Ants are stinging their way North through the Midwestern US, and rats and feral cats are causing havoc in the native bird populations of Hawaii.  What makes these invaders unusual is how they came to be.  Ordinarily invasive species follow a few specific routes.  Pet stores bring them in,  people don’t want them any more and decide that the kindest thing to do is release them into the wild.  This is the worst possible solution.  A new species in an area will almost certainly have no predators in that area.  Nothing is accustomed to eating them because they don’t belong.  Having no biological controls the invaders quickly overcome and replace the natives of the same type.  Often times, as with Africa Honey Bees or Brazilian Fire Ants, the people and the invasive species don’t know how to get along and conflict ensues.  Even without possible danger to humans and native species, the result of putting some invasive species into a new habitat always leads to a reduction in biodiversity,  always a bad thing.

Who is responsible for this nefarious turn of events?  Usually fishermen or boaters are to blame for aquatic species migration.  However, unlike the Zebra Muscle invasion, boaters are not responsible for the transplant.  The culprit is the most innocent of perpetrators, the elementary school.  Each year elementary schools purchase thousands of crayfish from Biological Supply Houses (who should know better).  Many of these places are not careful about the species they send.  While it is a federal violation to ship known invasive species to many areas, the laws are not enforced as they should be.  As a result, thousands of Rusty Crayfish are shipped each year to places like Oregon.  Elementary teachers use them in class to teach various life science lessons because they are sturdy, easy to grow and handle, and take up little space or time in caring for them.  At the end of each school year it is a common practice for the class to ceremoniously release its charges into the surrounding creeks and rivers rather than keep them over the summer where they would not be cared for or else (gasp) euthanize them (actually the preferred method according to US Fish and Wildlife).  School children, under the guidance of teachers (who ought to know better also) are releasing invasive species into delicate ecosystems where they will ravage unrestrained until they replace every native crayfish in the area.

What to do, What to do?  I happen to have the perfect solution.  On the day that the crayfish are no longer useful in class, bring to boil a large pot of salted water, drop one bag of Zatarain’s Boil in Bag Crayfish seasoning,  cut up potatoes and some andouille sausage, as well as a few ears of corn and allow the mixture to boil for 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.  As the crayfish have been kept in clean aquariums and bowls all winter they should not even need to be purged.  Simply gather up a couple dozen and drop them into the boiling water.  Boil for five minutes and then allow the entire concoction to sit and soak for another 20 minutes.  Spoon potatoes, sausage, corn, and crayfish into bowls.  Butter the potatoes and corn and have some shrimp cocktail sauce available for dipping.  No end of school party could go better.  Also the students are learning a valuable lesson in ecological responsibility.  This is a much more responsible way of dealing with a very dangerous (environmentally any how) situation.  If anyone would like other recipes involving crayfish, please drop me a comment and I will post them.  ‘Night all.



1. michaellaeldredge - May 1, 2012

Lol I love the last paragraph! Great ending!:)

2. regan222 - May 3, 2012

Thanks Michaella, It is a very tasty and responsible way to get rid of the little beasties. Once elementary school class that I know of just wraps them in paper towels and pops them in the freezer til they are stiff. Seems like a waste to me.

Laurel Scales - March 8, 2013

Great lesson. Now is we could come up with a way to cook lion fish and zebra muscles.

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