Louisiana’s favorite crustacean an invasive species in Michigan

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — News that Louisiana’s favorite crustacean has turned up as an invasive species in Michigan prompted a local tourism agency to create a pop-up crawfish festival in Michigan.
A crew including a chef who farms crawfish left Lafayette, Louisiana, on Thursday morning for a 1,000-mile drive north to Vicksburg — a village of about 3,000 near Kalamazoo and the first spot in Michigan where red swamp crawfish were found.
Since people outside the Gulf Coast call the tiny lobster-like critters “crayfish,” Saturday’s festival is called “Cray Day.” It was put together with help from Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and Sel de Terre, a Cajun band from the Ann Arbor area.
Festival organizers in Lafayette, about 115 miles west of New Orleans, were amused at first to think of crawfish as dangerous, said Ben Berthelet, president and CEO of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. Then they learned just how much damage the critters can do outside their natural habitat: undermining docks and dams with burrows up to three feet deep, killing aquatic plants and outcompeting smaller native crawfish.
“It went from locals seeing the humor to us really partnering with them and understanding the problem they’re having — how can we help? — and at the same time exposing our area, our cuisine to them,” said Berthelot.
Nick Popoff, aquatic species and regulatory affairs manager for the Michigan department, see the event as a chance to learn more about the species.