Invasive American Crayfish To Become Berlin Delicacy

Invasive Species or Catch of the Day?

American crayfish are coming to German restaurants.

German authorities have declared open season on the red swamp crayfish, an invasive species, native to the U.S. Gulf Coast, which has been popping up in lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams across Europe. In the summer of 2017, red swamp crayfish started roaming freely through Berlin's Tiergarten (a large public green space comparable to New York's Central Park), amusing some parkgoers and alarming others. Local animal control removed roughly 3,000 crayfish from the Tiergarten, but this didn't solve the problem. Now, having established that they are safe for human consumption, authorities have licensed fisherman to net the crayfish and sell them to restaurants.

A LONG WAY FROM LOUISIANA Carsten Koall/Getty Images A LONG WAY FROM LOUISIANA While it's not entirely clear how the red swamp crayfish, also called the Louisiana crayfish, traveled from U.S. to Germany, the working theory is that they arrived via the pet trade: After purchasing crayfish for their aquaria and then deciding, for one reason or another, to get rid of them, some number of owners probably set them free in local waters. CRAYFISH CROSSING Adam Berry/Getty Images CRAYFISH CROSSING Last summer, the crayfish made headlines around the world when they took to the pathways of the Tiergarten, as in this picture from August 24, 2017. NOT SHY Adam Berry/Getty Images NOT SHY A crayfish with claws spread wide in a Tiergarten pond in August 2017. CAUGHT RED-CLAWED Carsten Koall/Getty Images CAUGHT RED-CLAWED Because of the threat they pose to local species, the crayfish were targeted by Berlin animal control last year. But until very recently, it remained illegal to fish them. (Pictured: crayfish caught in a German fisherman's net on May 8, 2018.) SWAMP TO TABLE Carsten Koall/Getty Images SWAMP TO TABLE German environmental authorities have given fishers the go-ahead, according to local media reports, after determining "that [the crayfish] did not contain dangerous levels of heavy metals or other toxins." LICENSE TO FISH Carsten Koall/Getty Images LICENSE TO FISH Klaus Hidde is one of the fishers authorized to catch the crayfish and sell them to restaurants. CONSIDER THE CRAYFISH Carsten Koall/Getty Images CONSIDER THE CRAYFISH The authorization to catch and sell the crayfish has only been in effect for a week, and it's set to expire at the end of the year, but more than 1,600 crayfish have already been caught.