ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan brewery is partnering with the Michigan State University Extension to raise more awareness about an invasive invertebrate making a mess across the state.
Trail Point Brewing Company is holding a special event for the can release of its Red Swamp Rye IPA, named in honor of the invasive red swamp crayfish. Co-owner Jeff Knoblock says the opportunity to partner with MSU and do something to help the environment was a no-brainer for his team.
“We were excited from the get-go. Brewing beer is our forte here and its really something that is cohesive with one another,” Knoblock told News 8. “We strongly believe in the use of the outdoors and protecting our water. We need good water to do (brew beer). So it was just kind of symbiotic, if you will.”
The red swamp crayfish, also known as the Louisiana crayfish, is a popular menu item across its native range in the Mississippi Delta but can be a damaging pest in other areas. Now, with an established population in waterways across Michigan, the red swamp crayfish are overtaking native crayfish species.
“They are a little nuisance; a mudbug, we call them here,” MSU Extension Water Resources Educator Kelsey Bockelman told News 8. “They outcompete (our eight native crayfish species) for food and habitat. Also, when you get a big nest of them in an area, they like to burrow into our shorelines and that can cause huge erosion issues.”
The crayfish can live in virtually any water environment and have a “voracious appetite,” according to MSU. They typically grow to between 2 and 5 inches and can be identified by the bright, red bumps on the claws and a black stripe on the underside.
Live possession of red swamp crayfish is illegal in Michigan, but they can still be found in the food industry and as live bait, not to mention people who keep them as pets. Legally, Michigan restaurants are supposed to buy crayfish dead and frozen.
The red swamp crayfish impacts more than just native crayfish; it’s felt across the ecosystem. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the invasive crayfish also eats into food sources and available habitat for amphibians, juvenile fish and other invertebrates.
Because the red swamp crayfish is so firmly established in Michigan, there isn’t much state agencies can do to eradicate it, but they can focus on informing the public and further limiting the spread. Bockelman encourages people to file a report with the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network if they spot a red swamp crayfish and to emphasize following state protocols for cleaning your boat.
“That’s a big thing in Michigan. The motto is ‘clean, drain and dry.’ Once you leave a lake and you go into your tie-down area, legally you have to clean off all aquatic plants, debris or mud off of your boat before leaving the launch, as well as draining all live wells, bilges or ballast water,” Bockelman said.
The MSU Extension also has an action team that goes out to raise awareness and ensure people have the tools needed to prevent the spread.
“They are out there with a power washer. It’s attached to a trailer,” she said. “They have handouts and swag materials to hand out to interested boaters. We actually have them come up on a mat and we wash their boat for free.”
The first event will be held on June 24, starting at 2 p.m. at Trail Point. The MSU Extension and other conservation groups will be on hand to provide information, along with games and live music, not to mention a wide variety of craft beers.
“We have a really big day planned. We kind of doubled up, tripled up or quadrupled up (on our events),” Knoblock said. “We have our annual ‘Hazy Days of Summer’ release party, which we are brewing eight different hazy beers. They are all experimental with the latest and greatest hops and different yeast strains. It gives our brewers a little chance to express themselves.”