Conservation Dept. says awareness is key to solving crayfish problem

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COLUMBIA - Invasive crayfish are harming the ecosystems of some Missouri streams, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. 

"With the onset of fishing season, we want to raise awareness about the problem," Missouri Department of Conservation Resource Scientist Bob DiStefano said. Crayfish are often used for bait.

He said when crayfish or crawdads are not native to a stream, they can kill the native crayfish species and upset the food chain. 

"When we think of the word invasive, many people think that means an organism that comes from out of state, or even out of country," DiStefano said. 

He said in this case, it's important to remember that animals don't always pay attention to state lines. 

"Just because a species is native in Northern Missouri doesn't mean it's native in Southern Missouri," he said. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation said the best way to stop the spread of invasive crayfish is to not dump leftover bait, and instead humanely kill whatever bait is left. DiStefano suggested freezing leftover crayfish as a way to responsibly dispose of bait.

For a while, Missouri law forbid bait shops within state lines from selling crawdads. But as the law currently stands now, baitshops can sell the one most common type of crawdads, the Northern Missouri Crayfish.

KOMU 8 News called bait shops in Mid-Missouri, but none carry crawdads or crayfish as bait. 

DiStefano said he's not surprised. 

"I think many bait shops just think that the time it takes to probably identify which crawdads are legal to sell is just not worth the time," he said. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation has brochures available for both bait shops and individual fishermen who want to learn more about how to identify different species of crawdads. 

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