The first swamp crayfish were sighted in Berlin in 2017 – since then the city has been trying to stop the spread of the immigrant species. But there are also uses for the animals.

The German capital is fighting masses of exotic swamp crabs for the fifth year in a row. This year’s season started with catching the first animals.

On behalf of the Berlin Senate Administration, a fisherman primarily fetches red American swamp crayfish from the lakes in the Britzer Garden and the Tiergarten over the summer. The official start of the fishing season was June 1st, last week the first pots were laid out.

American red swamp crab is an invasive species in the EU – non-native species that have a detrimental impact on the environment.

The aim is to prevent the further spread of the species that is not native to Germany, said wildlife expert Derk Ehlert from the environmental administration of the German Press Agency. The animals are extremely voracious and multiply very quickly. They are therefore seen as a threat to native species and ecosystems.

Crayfish land on the plate

The traps should be emptied at least twice a week. The caught animals are sold to Berlin restaurateurs, among others. In the past few years, hundreds of kilos of red American swamp crabs have gone into the traps. That corresponds to several thousand pieces per year. Immediately after being caught, the animals are taken to the wholesaler and killed there. The sale of live animals is prohibited due to the risk of spread.

The approximately palm-sized swamp crabs are probably descendants of abandoned animals, for example from aquariums. Their occurrence went largely unnoticed in Berlin for a long time, until August 2017 when migratory swamp crayfish were sighted in the Tiergarten. The animals are actually found in the southern United States and northern Mexico.