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Species Case Studies 

Mitigating the Risks of Aquatic Invasive Species in Commerce
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October 2023
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This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Interior under Award no. F22AP03009-00.
Mitigating the Risks of Aquatic Invasive Species in Commerce
Legal Case Study: Red-eared Slider
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Red-Eared Slider

Introduction

The introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species pose a threat to aquatic systems. One primary pathway aquatic invasive species are moved and introduced to new ecosystems is via commerce - the plant and animal trade. Reducing the risks of harmful aquatic invasive species in trade requires the cooperation and collaboration of each party in the supply chain, including producers, retailers, importers, buyers, and state and federal agencies. The National Sea Grant Law Center developed a case study series to explore the current legal framework governing commercial trade in several popular species and challenges to mitigating risks from this pathway.

 

Species Background

The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) is considered one of the world’s worst invasive species (1). Red-eared sliders 

are native to a large portion of the United States, primarily along the Mississippi River Valley (2). Turtle hatchlings became popular pets in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, and exports to other countries significantly increased in the late 1980s - due in part to the prominence of turtles in pop culture. Researchers estimate that more than 52 million individual sliders were exported from the United States to international markets between 1989 and 1997 (3). As a result of this trade, red-eared sliders are the most introduced turtle species in the world (4).  In the United States, the commercial trade in red-eared sliders has resulted in introductions beyond their native range. Their presence has been observed in almost every state. In states along the East and West coasts, introduced populations are reproducing and thriving, out-competing native species for food and basking sites and diminishing biodiversity.

Regulatory Context

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In 1975, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of all turtles with shells less than 4 inches long (about 100 mm), except for educational or research purposes. This regulatory action was taken to prevent the spread of salmonellosis in children. Although anyone may be at risk of salmonella exposure when handling turtles, young children seem most at risk due to their hand-to-mouth behavior. At the time, the FDA estimated that 14% of all salmonellosis cases were turtle-related (5). Outbreaks have continued to be linked to pet turtles as recently as 2022 (6).

The FDA’s regulation states that “viable turtle eggs and live turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches shall not be sold, held for sale, or offered for any other type of commercial or public distribution.” (7)  However, there are exceptions for:

  • Sale and distribution of live turtles and eggs for “bona fide scientific, educational, or exhibition purposes, other than use as pets.”

  • Sale and distribution of live turtles and eggs not in connection with a business.

  • Sale and distribution for export only.

 

Twenty states followed the FDA’s lead and banned or placed restrictions on the sale of small turtles under state law: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington. A 2010 legal challenge to the FDA regulation filed by the Louisiana Turtle Farmers failed, and the regulation remains in place (8).

 

In addition to federal and state prohibitions on the sale of small turtles to protect public health, eleven states restrict the sale of red-eared sliders due to invasive risk. However, these state laws often have exceptions for research and educational purposes or particular varieties and therefore are not complete prohibitions on commercial trade.

  • Connecticut, for example, prohibits the purchase, sale, or exchange (and possession with intent to conduct any of those transactions) of red-eared slider turtles (9).  This prohibition does not apply to the purchase, sale, or exchange of “any red-eared slider turtle with distinctive aberrant color patterns, including albino or amelanistic specimens” provided the seller retains a record of the name and address of the purchaser and the turtle is not released into the environment.
     

  • North Carolina prohibits the “import, transport, export, purchase, possess, [sale], transfer, or release” of red-eared sliders (10). However, businesses providing scientific supplies for research may engage in these activities if allowed under a permit issued by the North Carolina Wildlife Commission. 

 

Thus, red-eared sliders can legally be bought and sold in these states as long as certain conditions are met. Further, trade in red-eared sliders is unrestricted or allowed by law in twenty-three states.

 

Interestingly, four states - Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, and Virginia - place some restrictions on the sale or possession of red-eared sliders due to the classification of the species as native or naturalized in the state. The fact that several states in the species’ native range have restricted trade because of declining wild populations while many states prohibit or restrict the species from coming into their states underscores the policy complexities of red-eared slider management.

Regulating Red-eared Sliders in Commerce – Key Takeaways

Red-eared slider management is challenging for numerous reasons. It is difficult to achieve interstate policy consistency regarding invasive risk when the species is native to a significant portion of the United States. It is unreasonable to expect states along the Mississippi River Valley to list red-eared sliders as a prohibited species under their invasive laws or take aggressive action to prevent trade.

 

The varying policy priorities related to restrictions on the sale of red-eared sliders means the policy goals and objectives may be different among the states with different enforcement goals. Public health agencies and advocates want to reduce the incidence of salmonella poisoning. Environmental agencies and advocates want to preserve ecosystem health and reduce introduction of invasive species. Animal rights advocates want to reduce the number of mistreated and unwanted turtles as pets. Although these three policy goals are not incompatible–they can all be achieved by prohibiting the sale of turtles–the players and strategies are different, raising questions about which agencies should play a leadership role. Coordination among the regulatory agencies is essential to ensuring that the legal framework is designed in a way that can achieve multiple policy goals.

 

Further, significant confusion and enforcement difficulties can arise when species are allowed to be traded for some purposes, but not others. As a result of the research, education, and permitting exceptions, commercial trade in turtle hatchlings continues for certain purposes. This can result in consumer confusion and enforcement challenges as illegal pet sales may occur under the guise of legal uses. Proving the intent of a sale is just one of the many barriers to enforcing these inconsistent prohibitions on trade, allowing the continuing spread of the red-eared slider to new environments.

 

The red-eared slider is an example of an invasive species which is difficult to regulate due to its geographic range and popularity in the pet trade. Red-eared sliders are not invasive in a large portion of the United States, making it a lower regulatory priority in much of the country than species with no native range in the United States, such as the water hyacinth. Regulatory motivations for prohibiting or restricting the sale of red-eared sliders are enacted by multiple jurisdictional authorities and inconsistent among states, creating gaps in monitoring and enforcement of prohibitions. Even in states with prohibitions, there are large exceptions for possession and trade based on a buyer’s intent, which further complicates efforts to prosecute violations. Until these competing interests and approaches are aligned, the red-eared slider will remain in commerce in the U.S. and abroad.

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 (1) IUCN, Global Invasive Species Database.

 (2) USGS, Red-eared Slider.

 (3) J. Franke and T.M. Telecky, Reptiles as Pets: An Examination of the Trade in Live Reptiles in the United States (2001).

 (4) Steven Pearson, Harold Avery, and James Spotila, Juvenile invasive red-eared slider turtles negatively impact the growth         of native turtles: Implications for global freshwater turtle populations, Biological Conservation 186: 115-121 (2015).

 (5) 39 Fed. Reg. 18463 (May 28, 1974).

 (6) Centers for Disease Control, Salmonella Investigative Details.

 (7) 21 C.F.R. § 1240.62.

 (8) Independent Turtle Farmers of Louisiana v. U.S., 703 F.Supp.2d 604 (2010).

 (9) Conn. Stat. § 26-78.

 (10)15A N.C. Admin. Code 10B.0123.

Appendix

Summary of State Regulation of Red-Eared Sliders

Alabama: Unlisted

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Alaska: Unlisted
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Arizona: Unlisted

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Arkansas: Public Health Restriction & Culture Allowed

It is illegal to sell, offer for sale, or distribute at wholesale, retail, or as a gift to the public, a live turtle or turtles, tortoise, terrapin under six inches long. Code Ark. R. 007.10.25-II.

 

Because red-eared sliders are native to Arkansas, aquaculture of the species is allowed in Arkansas under a Commercial Aquatic Turtle Farmer/Dealer Permit from the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission. Code Ark. R. 002.01.1-J1.02.

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California: Public Health Restriction

It is unlawful to import, sell or offer for sale or distribution to the public any live turtle with a carapace length of less than 4 inches. Shipments of turtles under 4 inches are permitted to a government agency, research/educational institution for research or teaching purposes, or to a zoological garden for display. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) may order the human destruction of any turtles unlawfully imported, sold, or distributed. CDFW may also quarantine turtles and take samples for the purposes of testing for Salmonella. CDFW may order the humane destruction of a lot of turtles found contaminated with Salmonella. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 17, § 2612.1.

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Colorado: Public Health Restriction & Trade Allowed as Unregulated Wildlife

It is unlawful to sell, barter, exchange, or otherwise transfer, import or cause to be imported into this state any type of turtle with a straight carapace length of less than four inches. 8 Colo. Code Regs. § 1202-15:18.

 

Red-eared sliders are classified as “unregulated wildlife” in Colorado. Unregulated wildlife may be imported, sold, bartered, traded, transferred, possessed, propagated and transported provided that all importation, disease requirements and any other state, local or federal requirements are met. 2 Colo. Code Regs. § 406-11:1103

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Connecticut: Public Health Restriction and Invasive Listing

It is unlawful to sell a turtle with a carapace length of less than four inches or with viable turtle eggs in Connecticut. Sellers of live turtles larger than 4 inches must post a caution notice warning that the transmission of salmonella disease is possible, provide the buyer with a copy of the caution notice, and the buyer must sign a form acknowledging receipt of the caution form. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture may suspend the pet shop license of any pet shop that violates this law. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 19a-102a.

 

It is unlawful to import, buy, sell or exchange, or possess with intent to sell or exchange red-eared sliders in Connecticut. These prohibitions do not apply to the use of red-eared sliders for any educational or research-related purpose by any scientific or educational institution. Red-eared sliders with distinctive aberrant color patterns, including albino or amelanistic specimens, may be bought, sold, and exchanged provided (1) the seller retains a record of the name and address of the purchaser and (B) the turtle is not released upon the lands or into the waters of this state. Release of any red- eared slider turtle upon the lands or into the waters in Connecticut is prohibited. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-78.

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Delaware: Unlisted

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Florida: Public Health Prohibition and Invasive Listing

Red-eared sliders less than four inches in carapace length may not be possessed without a permit issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC). Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 68-5.004.

 

Red-eared sliders are classified as a “conditional non-native species” in Florida. They may be possessed only by individuals or commercial import or export businesses holding a permit to do so issued by the FWC. Red-eared sliders with distinctive aberrant color patterns, including albino or amelanistic specimens, may be possessed without a permit. Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 68-5.004.

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Georgia: Unlisted

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Hawaii: Invasive Listing

All species of slider turtles (Trachemys spp.) are listed by Hawaii as “restricted animals.” § 4-71 Attachment 3. List of Restricted Animals (§ 4-71-6.5). A permit is required to possess or import restricted animals into the state. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 150A-6.2(c).

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Idaho: Invasive Listing

Red-eared sliders are a listed invasive species in Idaho. Idaho Admin. Code r. 02.06.09.143. No person may possess, import, ship, or transport any invasive species unless pursuant to a permit issued by the Idaho Department of Agriculture. Idaho Admin. Code r. 02.06.09.120.

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Illinois: Public Health Protection and Native Species Protection

It is unlawful in Illinois to possess or offer for sale a turtle or viable turtle eggs which would constitute a violation of the Food and Drug Administration regulation prohibiting the sale of turtles with carapace length less than 4 inches for that Act. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 8, § 25.110

 

Red-eared sliders are included on Illinois’ “Indigenous or Native Herptile Taxa List”. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 17, § 885.40. A sport fishing license is required for Illinois residents to collect or take native hertiples on private land. Non-residents may not possess or collect hertiples collected from the wild unless (1) for scientific purposes with a Herptile Scientific Collection permit or (2) for personal consumption with a nonresident sport fishing license. 17 Ill. Adm. Code 885.20.

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Indiana: Public Health Restriction and Native Species Protection

It is unlawful in Indiana for any individual to sell a turtle, regardless of species or origin, with a carapace less than four (4) inches long, except for a valid scientific or educational purpose that is associated with certain listed entities, including government agencies, museums, and scientific research organizations. 312 Ind. Admin. Code 9-5-7.5

 

With limited exceptions, it is unlawful to sell, transport for sale, or offer to sale a reptile that is native to Indiana. The red-eared slider is listed as a reptile that is native to Indiana. Red-eared sliders with albinistic, leuicistic, or xanthic color morphology are exempt from this prohibition if not collected from the wild. Sales made under a captive breeding license or to a public school are allowed. 312 Ind. Admin. Code 9-5-7.

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Iowa: Unlisted

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Kansas: Public Health Restriction

All species of slider turtles (Trachemys spp.) are listed by Hawaii as “restricted animals.” § 4-71 Attachment 3. List of Restricted Animals (§ 4-71-6.5). A permit is required to possess or import restricted animals into the state. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 150A-6.2(c).

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Idaho: Invasive Listing

Pet shops are prohibited from possessing, selling, offering for sale, or offering as a gift or promotional consideration any viable turtle eggs or live turtles with a carapace length of less than four inches. Kan. Admin. Regs. 9-18-25(d).

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Kentucky: Unlisted

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Louisiana: Public Health Restriction

Viable turtle eggs and live turtles with a carapace length of less than four inches may not be sold or offered for any commercial or public distribution within the state of Louisiana with two exceptions. Sale and distribution of viable turtles eggs and live turtles with a carapace length less than four inches is allowed (1) to a certified turtle farmer and (2) for bona fide scientific, educational, or exhibitional purposes, other than use as pets. 7 La. Admin. Code Pt XXI, § 1909.

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Maine: Invasive Listing

Captive bred red-eared sliders are a “Category 1 Restricted species” in Maine. Code Me. R. tit. 09- 137 Ch. 7, § 7.18. A permit is required to possess, import, exhibit, propagate, or rehabilitate Category 1 Restricted Species. To possess a Category 1 Restricted Species a person must acquire either an exhibitor’s or wildlife rehabilitator’s permit or must be an accredited research facility. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 12, § 12152.

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Maryland: Public Health Restriction

Maryland prohibits the sale or public distribution of turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches and viable reptile eggs. This prohibition does not apply to a turtle used for agricultural, scientific, or educational purposes or public exhibitions. Sales of turtles with a carapace length greater than 4 inches is allowed if a caution notice is posted by the seller and, at the time of sale, the seller furnishes the buyer with a copy of the caution notice and the buyer signs a log or statement that the buyer has read it. Md. Code Regs. 10.06.01.22.

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Massachusetts: Public Health Restriction

The sale or distribution of viable turtle eggs or live turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches is prohibited unless the seller provides the purchaser with a health advisory sheet describing the potential health risk to children and adults of contracting salmonellosis from turtles. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. 287.312.

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Michigan: Public Health Restriction

The sale or distribution of viable turtle eggs or live turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches is prohibited unless the seller provides the purchaser with a health advisory sheet describing the potential health risk to children and adults of contracting salmonellosis from turtles. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. 287.312.

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Minnesota: Invasive Species Listing

Red-eared sliders are classified as a “regulated invasive species” in Minnesota. Minnesota Rules, part 6216.0260. A person may not introduce a regulated invasive species without a permit issued by the commissioner. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 84D.07.

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Mississippi: Native Species Protection

Red-eared sliders are a native species in Mississippi classified as “nongame wildlife in need of management.” Nongame wildlife taken from the wild for personal use may not be bought, sold, offered for sale, bartered, exported for sale, nor exhibited unless authorized by a hunting/fishing license, scientific collection permit, or other license/permit issued by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Mississippi has season and possession limits for nongame turtles. Nongame wildlife may be propagated in captivity for commercial purposes only under permit from the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. 40 Code Miss. R. Pt. 5, R. 2.3.

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Missouri: Native Species Protection

Red-eared sliders are native to Missouri. Any person in Missouri holding wildlife in captivity in any manner must have a permit from the Missouri Department of Conservation or evidence of exemption. Confined wildlife held under permit shall include only species listed on Approved Confined Wildlife Species List. Red-eared sliders are included on this list. Mo. Code Regs. Ann. tit. 3, § 10-9.105. Missouri residents may take and possess alive a maximum of 5 specimens of native wildlife without a permit, but the animals may not be bought or sold. Mo. Code Regs. Ann. tit. 3, § 10-9.110(1)(A).

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Montana: Public Health Restricted and Invasive Listing

Possession or sale of turtles with a carapace or shell length of less than 4 inches is prohibited in Montana. Unless otherwise regulated, turtles in the Emydidae family (pond turtles) with a carapace or shell length greater than 4 inches that are not on the controlled or prohibited list may be possessed or sold as pets without a permit. Mont. Code Ann. § 87-5-706.

 

Red-eared sliders are classified as prohibited species in Montana. Mont. Admin. R. 12.6.2215. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks may issue a permit for the possession of a prohibited species only to certain entities including a licensed or accredited zoo or aquarium, a university or government agency for scientific or public health research, or a licensed business or organization for exhibit, educational, or scientific purposes. Mont. Admin. R. 12.6.2220

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Nebraska: Unlisted

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Nevada: Unlisted

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New Hampshire: Public Health Restriction

It is unlawful in New Hampshire to sell a turtle that has a carapace less than 4 inches. N.H. Code Admin. R. Agr 1705.01.

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New Jersey: Public Health Restriction

Viable turtle eggs and live turtles with a carapace length of less than four inches may not be sold, held for sale, or offered for any type of commercial or public distribution. Live turtles with a carapace length greater than four inches may not sold or distributed in New Jersey unless the person seeking to sell or distribute warrants to the satisfaction of the Department of Health and Senior Services that each shipment of turtles is free from Salmonella contamination. The Department may waive this warrant requirement for sale and distribution for the purposes of research, other zoological purposes, or for food. N.J. Admin. Code § 8:23-2.1.

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New Mexico: Unlisted

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New York: Public Health Restriction and Invasive Listing

It is illegal for any person to import, sell, or offer for sale or distribution at wholesale, retail, or as gifts to the public a live turtle with a carapace length of less than four inches. A warning must be posted by sellers and distributors of turtles about the risk of salmonellosis. Turtles of any size may enter the state for teaching use in educational institutions or for delivery to research institutions. N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 10, § 2.58.

 

Red-eared sliders are a “regulated invasive species” in New York. Regulated species are legal to possess, sell, buy, propagate, and transport, but may not be knowingly introduced. N.Y. Comp. Codes

R. & Regs. tit. 6, § 575.4.

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North Carolina: Public Health Restriction and Invasive Listing

It is illegal for any person to import, sell, or offer for sale or distribution at wholesale, retail, or as gifts to the public a live turtle with a carapace length of less than four inches. A warning must be posted by sellers and distributors of turtles about the risk of salmonellosis. Turtles of any size may enter the state for teaching use in educational institutions or for delivery to research institutions.

N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 10, § 2.58.

 

Red-eared sliders are a “regulated invasive species” in New York. Regulated species are legal to possess, sell, buy, propagate, and transport, but may not be knowingly introduced. N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 6, § 575.4.

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North Carolina: Public Health Restriction and Invasive Listing

It is illegal for any person to import, sell, or offer for sale or distribution at wholesale, retail, or as gifts to the public a live turtle with a carapace length of less than four inches. A warning must be posted by sellers and distributors of turtles about the risk of salmonellosis. Turtles of any size may enter the state for teaching use in educational institutions or for delivery to research institutions.

N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 10, § 2.58.

 

Red-eared sliders are a “regulated invasive species” in New York. Regulated species are legal to possess, sell, buy, propagate, and transport, but may not be knowingly introduced. N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 6, § 575.4.

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North Carolina: Public Health Restriction and Invasive Listing

It is illegal for any person to import, sell, or offer for sale or distribution at wholesale, retail, or as gifts to the public a live turtle with a carapace length of less than four inches. A warning must be posted by sellers and distributors of turtles about the risk of salmonellosis. Turtles of any size may enter the state for teaching use in educational institutions or for delivery to research institutions.

N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 10, § 2.58.

 

Red-eared sliders are a “regulated invasive species” in New York. Regulated species are legal to possess, sell, buy, propagate, and transport, but may not be knowingly introduced. N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 6, § 575.4.

 

It is unlawful to import, transport, export, purchase, possess, sell, transfer, or release live specimens of red-eared sliders in North Carolina. Such activities may be allowed under permits issued by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to government agencies, research institutions, and retail and wholesale establishments whose primary business is providing scientific supplies for research. Facilities open to the public for education may apply for a permit to collect, receive, and possess red-eared sliders. Private individuals in possession of a red-eared slider prior to August 1, 2018 may lawfully retain, transport, transfer or export the animal. 15A N.C. Admin. Code 10B.0123.

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North Dakota: Unlisted

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Ohio: Native Species Protection

Red-eared sliders are a native species in Ohio and classified as “collectible reptiles.” Ohio Admin. Code 1501:31-1-02. Ohio residents may take or possess up to four total individuals of a species of collectible reptiles from the wild in Ohio. Non-residents may not take collectible reptiles from the wild. It is unlawful to buy, sell, barter, or trade any reptile taken from the wild. After taking possession of a collectible reptile, the individual must apply for a propagation license from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The license allows the holder to possess the animals and captively produced offspring. Ohio Admin. Code 1501:31-25-04.

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Oklahoma: Unlisted

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Oregon: Public Health Restriction and Invasive Listing

No turtle with a carapace length less than four inches may be imported into Oregon except by a governmental agency, a privately financed research group, or zoos and wildlife exhibits. Or. Admin.

R. 603-011-0420.

 

Oregon’s prohibited species list includes all species and hybrids of pond sliders. Pond sliders are listed by family (Emydidae) and genus (Pseudemys and Trachemys) and therefore include red-eared sliders. Live wildlife listed as prohibited species may not be imported, possessed, sold, purchased, exchanged or transported in the state. Or. Admin. R. 635-056-0050.

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Pennsylvania: Public Health Restriction

It is unlawful in Pennsylvania for any person to sell, hold for sale, or offer for any type of commercial or public distribution any live turtle or lot of turtles if such turtle or lot is prohibited by Federal statute or regulation, including 21 CFR § 1240.62 (the FDA regulation prohibiting sales of turtles with carapace length less than 4 inches). 35 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 1071.

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Rhode Island: Sales and Possession Allowed with Conditions

Red-eared sliders may only be imported by researchers or licensed pet shops and their transportation carriers. Possession of red-eared sliders is prohibited unless the turtles are keep indoors as pets in a manner that will prevent their escape into the wild. Pet shops that sell red-eared sliders must notify purchasers of this requirement and keep a record of purchases for a minimum of three years which includes the purchaser’s name, address, telephone number, and signed statement that the purchaser acknowledges that the animal must be kept indoors. 250 R.I. Code R. 40-05-3.7.

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South Carolina: Unlisted

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South Dakota: Unlisted* (General Prohibition on Trade)

Red-eared sliders are not listed in South Dakota. However, there is a general prohibition on the purchase, sale, barter, and trade of any species of turtle. S.D. Admin. R. 41:07:10:04.

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Tennessee: Public Health Restriction

It shall be unlawful in Tennessee to import, sell, barter or otherwise exchange or distribute to the public, any live turtle with a carapace length of less than four inches. This includes offering them for adoption or for free. A warning about the risk of salmonella must be posted conspicuously at every display of turtles for retail sale or distribution. Retail sellers must issue a sales receipt at the time of sale that has the warning printed on it or is accompanied by an informational sheet with the warning. Sellers must keep a complete record or all purchases, losses, or other dispositions of turtles. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1200-14-01-.36.

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Texas: Unlisted

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Vermont: Unlisted

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Virginia: Native Species Protection

Red-eared sliders are included on the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources List of Native and Naturalized Species. Red-eared sliders are identified as a naturalized species, meaning they are not originally native to Virginia but have wild, self-sustaining populations. 4 Va. Admin. C. 15-20-50. Red-eared sliders may not be taken or possessed in any number for private use in Virginia. 4 Va. Admin. Code 15-360-10.

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Washington: Public Health Restriction

Live turtles with a carapace length of less than four inches may not be sold, held for sale, or offered for sale or distribution in Washington for the purpose of being kept as a pet. Wash. Admin. Code 246-100-191.

Marbled Crayfsh
Mitigating the Risks of Aquatic Invasive Species in Commerce
Legal Case Study: Marbled Crayfish
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Introduction

The introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) pose a threat to aquatic systems. One primary pathway aquatic invasive species are moved and introduced to new ecosystems is via commerce - the plant and animal trade. Reducing the risks of harmful aquatic invasive species in trade requires the cooperation and collaboration of each party in the supply chain, including producers, retailers, importers, buyers, and state and federal agencies. The National Sea Grant Law Center developed a case study series to explore the current legal framework governing commercial trade in several popular species and challenges to mitigating risks from this pathway.

 

Species Background

The marbled crayfish (Procambarus virginalis) is a popular crayfish in the aquarium and pet trade. Some estimates suggest marbled crayfish may account for about one-half of all crayfish sold online (1), likely due to the novelty of the species. Marbled crayfish is a creation of the pet trade, and was first discovered in Germany in the 1990s (2). Marbled crayfish is most closely related to Procambarus fallax, a crayfish species native to southern Georgia and Florida. Marbled crayfish was first sold into the North American market in the early 2000s (3). Marbled crayfish is the only known decapod crustacean to reproduce through parthenogenesis (i.e., self-cloning), and all specimens are female as a result. Their ability to reproduce asexually at high rates could present significant ecological risks if released into the environment.

 

Regulatory Context

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Marbled crayfish is listed as a prohibited or regulated species by name in 14 states. The earliest prohibited listing appeared in 2010 when Idaho banned the possession, cultivation, import, shipment, or transport of marbled crayfish without a permit (4). The states of Maryland and Missouri followed the next year, prohibiting import, sale, purchase, and possession in the state (5). Virginia prohibited marbled crayfish in 2012 (6) and Tennessee in 2015 (7).

 

There was a lull in state prohibited listings until 2019; however, several states have taken action in recent years. This may be a result of increased attention on the species due to its addition to the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers list of “least wanted species” in 2018 (8). Seven states have regulated the commercial trade in marbled crayfish in some way since 2019: Kansas in 2019 (9), Michigan and Ohio in 2020 (10), North Carolina in 2021 (11), Arkansas, Georgia, and Oklahoma in 2022 (12).

 

Minnesota published a proposed rule in 2022 to add marbled crayfish to the state’s list of prohibited invasive species, but the rule has not been finalized as of date of publication (13). Illinois and Utah listed marbled crayfish in 2023 (14).

 

Four states (Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington) prohibit or restrict all species of crayfish in the family Cambaridae which includes marbled crayfish. An additional six states (Colorado, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin) have a general prohibition on the possession of non-native or live species of crayfish, with some limited exceptions. This is a recommended policy approach compared to single-species listings. Research conducted on the effectiveness of state legislative policies to prevent the introduction of other invasive species, such as rusty crayfish, revealed that the most effective form of regulation is one that does not require individuals to distinguish among species (15).

 

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in 24 states and exempted from regulation in two states. Kentucky’s prohibition on the purchase, sale, possession, and import of nonnative aquatic species exempts the trade in aquarium species (16). South Carolina exempts recognized pet trade species from its nonindigenous species prohibitions (17).

 

In 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) successfully prosecuted a marbled crayfish seller for violations of the federal Lacey Act (18). Title 16 of the Lacey Act makes it illegal for any person “to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce” … “any fish or wildlife taken, possessed, transported, or sold” in violation of State law (19). Congress authorized criminal penalties up to $10,000 fine or 1 year in jail (20). The illegal activity was identified and brought to the DOJ’s attention by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The defendant pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to pay a $5,000 fine, complete a two-year term of probation, and perform 80 hours of community service. Although this fine may seem insignificant, the defendant had received less than $3,000 in gross profits from the illegal sales.

 

Regulating Marbled Crayfish in Commerce - Key Takeaways

Commercial trade in marbled crayfish continues despite its high risk of invasiveness. Although a growing number of states have taken action to restrict trade, these states represent only about a quarter of the U.S. states. This is a relatively small number considering the species has no native range in the United States. Increased interstate consistency is needed to reduce the sale, purchase, and possession of this (and other) high-risk species.

 

Efforts to prioritize species listings by governmental entities and organizations could significantly improve the ability of states to lessen aquatic invasive species in commerce. Listing species, such as the marbled crayfish, which have no native range in any state, would advance harmonization of state invasive species lists. Prior to the addition of marbled crayfish on the “least wanted” AIS list, no Great Lakes state prohibited the species. Today, the species is listed in two Great Lakes states – Michigan and Ohio – and proposed by a third – Minnesota. Continued progress is needed in the region and throughout the country to address these important regulatory gaps.

 

The successful Lacey Act prosecution of a marbled crayfish seller is an important cautionary tale for individuals that might consider engaging in commercial trade of the species. The extent to which this case has deterred others from engaging in illegal sales is unknown, but it demonstrates that federal and state agencies are willing and able to enforce violations of state AIS laws.

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 (1) Faulkes, Z. 2015. Marmorkrebs (Procambarus fallax f. virginalis) are the most popular crayfish in the North American pet trade. Knowledge & Management of Aquatic Ecosystems 416, 20.

 (2) Ewen Callaway, Geneticists Unravel Secrets of Super-Invasive Crayfish, Nature (February 2018).

 (3) Marbled Crayfish, Invasive Species Centre.

 (4) Idaho Admin. Code r. 02.06.09.140.

 (5) Md. Code Regs. 08.02.19.04, 3 Mo. Code of State Regulations 10-4.117.

 (6) 4 Va. Admin. Code 15-20-210.

 (7) Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1660-01-18-.03.

 (8) Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers Add Five “List Wanted” AIS.

 (9) Kansas Admin. Reg. 115-18-10.

 (10) Michigan Invasive Species Order.

 (11) 15A N.C. Admin. Code 10C.0211.

 (12) Okla. Admin. Code 800:20-1-2, Ga Comp. R. & Regs. 391-4-8-.03, Ark. Admin. Code 002.01.1-J1.03; Ark. Admin. Code 002.01.1-J1.0.

 (13) See, Minn. Department of Natural Resources, DNR Rulemaking: Invasive Species.

 (14) 17 Ill. Adm. Code 805.20. Utah Admin. Code R657-3c.

 (15) Cassie Dressler and Bradley Swanson, Preemptive legislation inhibits the anthropogenic spread of an aquatic invasive species, the rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus), Biological Invasions 15:1049–1056 (2013).

 (16) 301 Ky. Admin. Regs. 1:122.

 (17) S.C. Code Ann. § 50-13-1630.

 (18) U.S. v. Spaulding, Judgment in a Criminal Case, Case: 2:22-cr-00060-CMV (S.D. Ohio, Aug. 8, 2022).

 (19) 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(2).

 (20) Id. §3373(d)(2).

Appendix

Summary of State Regulation of Marbled Crayfish

 

Alabama: Unlisted

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Alaska: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in Alaska. Alaska’s list of “banned invasive species” includes only signal, red swamp, and rusty crayfish. Alaska Admin. Code tit. 5, § 41.075

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Arizona: Prohibited by Genus/Family

All freshwater crayfish species within the families Astacidae, Cambaridae, and Parastacidae are classified as “restricted live wildlife” in Arizona. A license from the Arizona Game and Fish Department is required to possess restricted live wildlife. Ariz. Admin. Code R12-4-406.

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Arkansas: Prohibited by Species Name

Marbled crayfish is classified as a “prohibited species” in Arkansas. The species may not be imported for private lake or pond stocking. Ark. Admin. Code 002.01.1-J1.03. The species may not be imported for aquaculture. Ark. Admin. Code 002.01.1-J1.01.

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California: Prohibited by Genus/Family

All species of the family Cambaridea, except Procambarus clarkii and Orconectes virile, are included on California’s list of “live restricted animals.” It is unlawful to import, transport, or possess live restricted animals except under a permit issued by the Department of Fish and Game. Crayfish were included on the list because they were deemed “detrimental animals” that pose a threat to native wildlife, agricultural interests, or public health or safety. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 671.

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Colorado: General Prohibition (Non-native aquatic wildlife)

Colorado’s aquatic nuisance species list includes rusty crayfish. 2 Colo. Code Reg. 405-8:800 Although marbled crayfish is not classified as ANS, there is a general prohibition on the possession of any live native or nonnative aquatic wildlife in Colorado. Only certain listed crayfish species may be possessed east of the Continental Divide. Marbled crayfish is not an allowed species. 2 Colo. Code Reg. 406-0:012.

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Connecticut: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in Connecticut. Connecticut’s list of “nuisance aquatic invertebrates” includes only rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus). Conn. Agencies Regs. 26-55-5

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Delaware: Unlisted

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Florida: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in Florida. Florida’s list of “conditional non-native species” includes only Australia red clay, red swamp, and white river crayfish. Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 68-5.004.

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Georgia: Prohibited by Species Name

Marbled crayfish is included on Georgia’s list of “prohibited wild animals” and are prohibited in the state. Ga Comp. R. & Regs. 391-4-8-.03.

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Hawaii: Unlisted

Hawaii’s list of restricted animals includes all crayfish species in the genus Cambarus. Haw. Admin. Rules § 4-71 Attachment 3. List of Restricted Animals (§ 4-71-6.5). A permit is required to possess or import restricted animals into the state. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 150A-6.2(c). However, as marbled crayfish is classified in the genus Procambarus, the species may not fall within the scope of the restricted animals list.

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Idaho: Prohibited by Species Name

Marbled crayfish (Procambarus fallax f. virginalis) is a listed invasive species in Idaho. Marmorkrebs are also listed at the species level (Procambarus sp.). Idaho Admin. Code r. 02.06.09.140. No person may possess, import, ship, or transport any invasive species unless pursuant to a permit issued by the Idaho Department of Agriculture. Idaho Admin. Code r. 02.06.09.120.

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Illinois: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in Illinois. Illinois’s list of “injurious species” includes only rusty crayfish. 17 Ill. Adm. Code 805.20. With the exception of rusty crayfish, all crayfish species are legal to possess in Illinois and used, consumed, and sold for bait. 17 Ill. Adm. Code 830.60.

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Indiana: Unlisted

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Iowa: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in Iowa. Iowa’s list of “aquatic invasive species” includes only rusty crayfish. Iowa Admin. Code r. 571-90.2(456A).

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Kansas: Prohibited by Species Name

Marbled crayfish is a listed prohibited species in Kansas. Its importation, possession, or release is prohibited except as authorized by a wildlife importation permit issued by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Kan. Admin. Regs. 115-18-10.

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Kentucky: Allowed (Aquarium Species Exception)

With limited exceptions, the purchase, sale, possession, import, or release of any aquatic species not native or established in Kentucky waters is prohibited. Except for certain listed species, a person may buy, sell, import, or possess aquarium species. 301 Ky. Admin. Regs. 1:122. “Aquarium species” means the species of fish that are legally sold in the pet and ornamental trade business and not stocked into waters of the Commonwealth. 301 Ky. Admin. Regs. 1:001.

 

As marbled crayfish is generally recognized as an aquarium species and they are not listed on the prohibited species list, trade and possession of the species is likely allowed unless crayfish are excluded from the definition of aquarium species.

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Louisiana: Unlisted

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Maine: Unlisted

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Maryland: Prohibited by Species Name

Marbled crayfish is included on Maryland’s list of “nonnative aquatic organisms.” It is unlawful to import, transport, purchase, possess, propagate, sell, or release nonnative aquatic organisms. Md. Code Regs. 08.02.19.04

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Massachusetts: Unlisted

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Michigan: Prohibited by Species Name

Marbled crayfish is a listed “prohibited species” in Michigan. Michigan Invasive Species Order. It is unlawful to possess a live prohibited species in Michigan. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 324.41303.

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Minnesota: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in Minnesota. In October 2022, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources published a proposed rule to add marbled crayfish to the list of prohibited invasive species. At the time of publication, this rule has not been finalized.

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Mississippi: Unlisted

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Missouri: Prohibited by Species Name

Marbled crayfish is a listed prohibited species in Missouri. Prohibited species may not be imported, exported, transported, sold, purchased, or possessed alive without written approval of the Missouri Department of Conservation. Mo. Code Regs. Ann. tit. 3, § 10-4.117.

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Montana: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in Montana. Montana’s list of prohibited species includes only rusty crayfish. Mont. Admin. R. 12.6.2215.

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Nebraska: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in Nebraska. Nebraska’s list of aquatic invasive species includes only white river, red swamp, and rusty crayfish. 163 Neb. Admin. Code Ch. 2, 012.

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Nevada: Prohibited by Family/Genus

All species in the families Parastacidae, Cambaridae and Astacidae, except Procambarus clarkii, Orconectes causeyi and indigenous species of the genus Pacifastacus, are included on Nevada’s list of prohibited species. It is unlawful to import, transport, or possess live specimens of prohibited species. Nev. Admin. Code 503.110.

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New Hampshire: General Prohibition (Non-Indigenous Crayfish)

New Hampshire includes “all non-indigenous crayfish” on its prohibited species list. Prohibited species may not be possessed or imported. N.H. Code Admin. R. Fis 804.03 and 803.04.

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New Jersey: Unlisted New Mexico: Unlisted New York: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in New York. New York’s list of prohibited invasive species includes only rusty crayfish. N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 6, § 575.3.

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North Carolina: Prohibited by Species Name

It is unlawful to transport, purchase, possess, sell, or stock in the public or private waters of North Carolina any live marbled crayfish or Marmorkrebs (Procambarus virginalis or Procambarus fallax f. virginalis) in North Carolina. 15A N.C. Admin. Code 10C.0211.

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North Dakota: Unlisted

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Ohio: Prohibited by Species Name

Marbled crayfish is listed as an “injurious aquatic invasive species” in Ohio. Ohio Injurious AIS List. It shall be unlawful for any person to possess, import or sell live individuals of designated injurious aquatic invasive species. Ohio Admin. Code 1501:31-19-01.

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Oklahoma: Prohibited by Species Name

Marbled crayfish is included on Oklahoma’s list of “restricted exotic species.” The import and possession of restricted exotic species is prohibited. Okla. Admin. Code 800:20-1-2.

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Oregon: Prohibited by Family/Genus

The importation, possession, propagation, transportation, sale, purchase, exchange and disposition of non-native crayfish species in the families Cambaridae and Parastacidea is controlled in Oregon. Non-native crayfish may be harvested, possessed, and sold commercially by licensed fishers or harvested recreationally from state waters. Propagation is not allowed. Non-native crayfish may not be imported except by recognized educational institutions or for immediate consumption who apply for and receive authorization from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Or. Admin. R. 635-056-0075.

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Pennsylvania: General Prohibition (All Species)

The introduction, importation, possession or transport of all live species of crayfish is prohibited in Pennsylvania, with limited exceptions. 58 Pa. Code § 71.6 and 71a.11. Live crayfish may be possessed and used as bait in the water from which they were taken. Live crayfish may also be possessed or imported for testing and scientific purposes or restaurant consumption if adequate measures have been taken to prevent their escape. 58 Pa. Code § 71a.11.

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Rhode Island: General Prohibition (All Non-indigenous crayfish)

The possession of all non-indigenous crayfish is prohibited in Rhode Island unless authorized pursuant to a valid exotic animal possession permit issued by Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. 250 R.I. Code R. 40-05-3.17.

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South Carolina: Allowed (Pet Trade Exception)

It is unlawful in South Carolina for a person to possess, sell, offer for sale, import, bring, cause to be brought or imported into this State, or release in this State rusty crayfish or other nonindigenous species not established, except by permit. This prohibition does not apply to recognized pet trade species. S.C. Code Ann. § 50-13-1630. As marbled crayfish is generally recognized as a pet trade species and they are not listed on the prohibited species list, trade and possession of the species is likely allowed pursuant to this exception.

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South Dakota: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in South Dakota. South Dakota’s list of aquatic invasive species includes only rusty and red swamp crayfish. S.D. Admin. R. 41:10:04:01.

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Tennessee: Prohibited by Species Name

Marbled crayfish is a listed “Class V” species in Tennessee. Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 1660-01-18-

.03. Class V species are those designated by the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission as injurious to the environment and may only be held in zoos under such conditions as to prevent the release or escape of such wildlife into the environment. Tenn. Code Ann. § 70-4-403.

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Texas: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in Texas. Texas’s list of exotic harmful or potentially harmful species only includes crayfish in the family Parastacidae (Southern hemisphere freshwater crayfishes, including redclaw crayfish). 31 Tex. Admin. Code § 57.112.

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Utah: Unlisted

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Vermont: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in Vermont. Vermont’s list of aquatic nuisance species includes only rusty crayfish. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 10, § 1452.

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Virginia: Prohibited by Species Name

Marbled crayfish is a listed nonindigenous aquatic nuisance species in Virginia. 4 Va. Admin. Code 15-20-210. It is unlawful to take, possess, transport, import, sell, or offer for sale any nonindigenous aquatic nuisance species unless authorized under a permit issued by the Virginia Department of Wildlife. VA Code Ann. § 29.1-574.

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Washington: Prohibited by Family/Genus

All crayfish species of the family Cambaridae are classified as “prohibited level 3” species in Washington. Wash. Admin. Code 220-640-050. It is unlawful for any person or commercial entity to receive or possess any live prohibited level 3 species. Wash. Admin. Code 220-640-051. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife may issue permits to authorize the possession of prohibited level 3 species specimens for scientific research or display provided certain conditions are met. Wash. Admin. Code 220-640-100. An individual who possessed a prohibited level 3 species prior to the time of its classification may retain possession for the remainder of the animal’s life but the animal may not be transferred to another owner within the state and must be prevented from reproducing or its progeny destroyed. Wash. Admin. Code 220-640-130.

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West Virginia: Unlisted

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Wisconsin: General Prohibition (All Nonnative Crayfish)

Wisconsin’s list of prohibited invasive species includes all “nonnative fish and nonnative crayfish” except for established nonnative crayfish species. Wis. Adm. Code § NR 40.04. Rusty crayfish are regulated as Restricted in Wisconsin as they are considered an established nonnative crayfish species. A permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is required to transport, possess, transfer or introduce a prohibited or restricted species. Wis. Admin. Code NR § 40.06.

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Wyoming: Unlisted

Marbled crayfish is unlisted in Wyoming. Wyoming’s list of prohibited aquatic invasive species includes only rusty crayfish. Wyo. Admin. Code 040.0001.62 § 2.

Water Hyacinth
Mitigating the Risks of Aquatic Invasive Species in Commerce
Legal Case Study: Water Hyacinth
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Introduction

The introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species pose a threat to aquatic systems. One primary pathway by which aquatic invasive species are moved and introduced to new ecosystems is via commerce - the plant and animal trade. Reducing the risks of harmful aquatic invasive species in trade requires the cooperation and collaboration of each party in the supply chain, including producers, retailers, importers, buyers, and state and federal agencies. The National Sea Grant Law Center developed a case study series to explore the current legal framework governing commercial trade in several popular species and challenges to mitigating risks from this pathway.

 

Species Background

Water hyacinth is an invasive aquatic plant species native to the Amazon Basin in South America. Of the seven known species of water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes (E. crassipes), also known as common or floating water hyacinth, is the most widespread. Water hyacinth grows and reproduces quickly, and can spread to cover large portions of ponds, lakes, and other water bodies. Water hyacinth can outcompete native plants and block sunlight to the water column, negatively impacting biodiversity. Dense mats of water hyacinth impede boat traffic and reduce water flow.

 

Various accounts exist regarding how water hyacinth may have been introduced in the United States, but introduction likely occurred in the 1880s. By the turn of the 20th century, the plant was causing significant issues in the southeastern United States by outcompeting native species and clogging waterways.

 

In June 1897, Congress ordered the Secretary of War, who subsequently delegated the authority to the

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), to investigate and report on obstructions of navigable waters of Florida, Louisiana, and other southeastern states by water hyacinth. In 1898, the Corps recommended that two boats be constructed (one for Florida and one for Louisiana) at a cost of $25,000 each (the equivalent of nearly $1 million in today’s currency(1)) to remove the current obstructions and maintain navigability (2). The problem and expense of water hyacinth management has been with us a long time.

 

Water hyacinth is a popular plant for ornamental ponds and water gardens due to its attractive purple flowers. Many nurseries promote the species to customers and encourage cultivation. E-commerce sales of water hyacinth plants and seeds are widespread. Unfortunately, escape from ponds and water gardens is a common way water hyacinths are introduced into the environment.

 

Regulatory Context

Water Hyacinth Map 11.3.23.png

Figure 1. Comparison of state regulation of water hyacinth. See appendix for citations and details of regulatory approaches.

Despite water hyacinth being identified as a problematic aquatic invasive species more than a century ago, the regulatory framework for these species remains patchwork at best. At the federal level, Congress took some early action enacting the Rivers and Harbors Act in 1899. The act authorized the construction and operation of “crusher boats” to remove water hyacinth from navigable waterways (3). Three years later the Rivers and Harbors Act Amendment allowed for the eradication of water hyacinth by mechanical, chemical, or any other means (4).

 

In August 1956, Congress adopted Title 18 Section 46 of the U.S. Code. Section 46(a) made it a federal offense to transport E. crassipes or seeds via interstate commerce (5). Congress also prohibited the knowing sale, purchase, or receipt of E. crassipes plants or seeds transported in violation of Section 46(a). This provision was codified as part of the general federal criminal code and identified the listed activities as a federal criminal offense. No federal agency was expressly charged with developing or enforcing regulations to implement this provision. Congress’s failure to task an agency with responsibility created a significant enforcement gap. In contrast, Title 18 of the Lacey Act, which is also found in this section of the code (6), authorizes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with permitting and enforcement responsibilities for injurious species.

 

The Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2021 repealed the Title 18 Section 46 prohibition on the sale and shipment of common water hyacinth plants and seeds (7). Because Section 46 was often criticized as an example of Congressional overreach (8), it is likely that the repeal was motivated by that belief. It is therefore no longer unlawful under federal law to transport E. crassipes plants or seeds via interstate commerce, or sell, purchase, or receive such plants or seeds.

 

Currently, the only federal restriction related to any water hyacinth species is the inclusion of anchored water hyacinth (E. azurea) on the federal noxious weed and weed seed list (9). E. azurea is closely related to common water hyacinth (E. crassipes), but the plant is rooted rather than free floating. Although uncontrolled growth of both species has similar negative impacts on water bodies, the policy rationale for the distinction among species is unclear. Research conducted on the effectiveness of state legislative policies to prevent the introduction of other aquatic invasive species, such as the rusty crayfish, revealed that the most effective form of regulation is one that does not require individuals to distinguish between species, such as between E. crassipes and E. azurea (10), particularly when the deleterious effects of aquatic invasive species within a family are similar.

 

As with federal regulations, the state regulatory regimes for water hyacinth are inconsistent. This is common in the arena of invasive species management as state policy priorities and agency capacity varies across the country. A study of regulated plant taxa across the United States assessing consistency among adjacent states’ regulatory lists found an overlap of just 16.8% of regulated taxa among neighboring states.

 

Although twenty-four states have statutes or regulations prohibiting or restricting the import, sale, purchase, or possession of water hyacinth, there is significant variation among the states. The state of Florida prohibited release of water hyacinth in 1899. However, aquatic plant nurseries can apply for a special permit to grow and export water hyacinth, meaning it may be legally propagated in Florida for sale to other states (11).

 

The differences in species regulations observed at the federal level exist at the state level as well.

  • Ten states restrict both E. crassipes and E. azurea: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin. Florida lists water hyacinth at the genus level (i.e., Eichhorina spp.). South Carolina’s restrictions refer to water hyacinth by their common name only.

  • In three states, only, E. crassipes is listed: Colorado, Delaware, Idaho.

  • Six states list only E. azurea: Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Oklahoma. An additional four states prohibit E. azurea through incorporation of the federal noxious weed list in state law or regulations: Georgia, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia.

 

There is a regional pattern with respect to state regulation of water hyacinth. The majority of states that prohibit both E. crassipes and E. azurea are located in the Southeast, the region impacted by water hyacinth introductions for the longest period of time. Yet twenty-seven states have no restrictions at all despite the species’ lack of a native range in the United States, its well-known invasive risk, and climate and other scientific data which indicate the species could establish and thrive. These inconsistencies result in seller and consumer confusion, as well as enforcement challenges.

 

Regulating Water Hyacinth in Commerce – Key Takeaways

Despite being a well-known threat by 1898, consistent federal and state legal restrictions for water hyacinth remain non-existent. Species such as water hyacinth, which has no native range in any state and are deemed a high invasive risk, are an excellent candidate to propose for harmonizing across state invasive species lists.

 

Increased interstate consistency is critical in the case of water hyacinth because federal law restricts only anchored water hyacinth as a noxious weed, leaving regulation of common water hyacinth to the states. Additionally, the federal restrictions that once existed for common water hyacinth have been repealed, despite no measurable success in reducing its presence in the United States during the past 125 years. With less than half the states having any restrictions on water hyacinth in place, and only ten states restricting both species, there are significant regulatory gaps creating unrestricted movement of water hyacinth in commerce.

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 (1) $919,003 according to the CPI Inflation Calculator.

 (2) Letter from the Acting Secretary of War transmitting, with a copy of a report, a letter from the Chief of Engineers relating to the obstruction of navigable waters of the South by the Water Hyacinth, U.S House of Representatives, 55th Congress, 3rd Session, Document No. 91 (Dec. 17, 1898).

 (3) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, Aquatic Plant Control Program.

 (4) Id.

 (5) 18 U.S.C. § 46.

 (6) 18 U.S.C. § 42.

 (7) Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2021, Title X (H.R. 133), Pub. Law 116-260 (Dec. 27, 2020).

 (8) See, e.g., Roger Miner, “Dealing with the Appellate Caseload Crisis”: the Report of the Federal Courts Study Committee Revisited, 57 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 517, 525 (2012/2013).

 (9) 7 C.F.R. § 360.200(a)); 7 C.F.R. § 361.6.

 (10) Cassie Dressler and Bradley Swanson, Preemptive legislation inhibits the anthropogenic spread of an aquatic invasive species, the rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus), Biological Invasions 15:1049–1056 (2013).

Appendix

Summary of State Regulation of Water Hyacinth

Alabama: Listed - Both Species

Both E. azurea and E. crassipes are classified as noxious weeds in Alabama. Alabama incorporates the federal noxious weed list by reference, thereby listing E. azurea as a “Class A” noxious weed under state law. E. crassipes is a listed “Class C” noxious weed. Ala. Admin. Code r. 80-10-14-.04. The movement of Class A or C noxious weeds or any regulated article infested with such weeds into or within Alabama is prohibited. Ala. Admin. Code 80-10-14-.05.

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Alaska: Unlisted

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Arizona: Listed - Both Species

E. crassipes is classified as a “Class A” noxious weed in Arizona. Ariz. Admin. Code foll. R3-4-245, Tbl. 4. No Class A noxious weed or commodity infested or contaminated with such weed shall be admitted into the state unless otherwise authorized by the Arizona Department of Agriculture. Ariz. Admin. Code R3-4-245. E. crassipes is also classified as a restricted noxious weed seed. Ariz. Admin. Code R3-4-403.

 

E. crassipes is included on the state’s list of aquatic invasive species. Arizona Game and Fish Department Director’s Order 1. It is unlawful to possess, import, ship or transport an aquatic invasive species into or within Arizona without authorization from the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 17-255.02

 

Arizona incorporates the federal noxious weed list by reference, thereby listing E. azurea as a prohibited noxious weed seed under state law. Admin. Code R3-4-403. E. crassipes is a listed prohibited noxious weed seed. Ariz. Admin. Code R3-4-403. The sale of agricultural, vegetable, or ornamental plant seed containing any prohibited noxious weed seed is prohibited.

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Arkansas: Listed - Both Species

Both E. azurea and E. crassipes have been declared a public nuisance in Arkansas and included on the state’s prohibited plant list. No plant, seed or any reproductive structure of a prohibited plant may be sold or utilized in plantings in Arkansas. Ark. Code R. 209.02.1-I.

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California: Unlisted

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Colorado: Listed - E. crassipes

E. crassipes is a listed “aquatic nuisance species” in Colorado. 2 Colo. Code Regs. § 405-8:800. Except as authorized by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, it unlawful for any person to possess, import, export, ship, transport, release, place, plant, or cause to be released, placed, or planted into the waters of the state any aquatic nuisance species. 2 Colo. Code Regs. § 405-8:801.

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Connecticut: Unlisted

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Delaware: Unlisted

E. crassipes is included on the state’s Invasive Plant List. Del. Code Ann. tit. 3, § 2904. It is unlawful to import, export, buy, sell, transport, distribute, or propagate any viable portion, including seeds, of a plant on the Invasive Plant List, without approval from the Delaware Department of Agriculture. Del. Code Ann. tit. 3, § 2903.

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Florida: Listed - Both Species (Genus Level)

Water hyacinths are included on the state’s noxious weed list at the genus level. (Eichhornia spp.). Fla. Admin. Code r. 5B-57.007. It is unlawful to introduce, multiply, possess, move, or release a noxious weed except under permit issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDCAS). Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 5B-57.004.

 

Water hyacinths are also listed as “Class 1 Prohibited Aquatic Plants” at the genus level (Eichhornia spp.). Possession, collection, transportation, cultivation, and importation of Class 1 Prohibited Aquatic Plants is prohibited except as authorized by permit. Fla. Admin. Code r. 5B-64.011.

 

The FDACS may issue permits to aquaculture producers to engage in the business of transporting and selling water hyacinths (Eichhornia spp.) only to other states or countries that permit such transportation and sale when such aquaculture activities have been certified by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. A Florida aquaculture producer may not ship water hyacinths to other states or countries under such a permit for the purpose of importing water hyacinths back into Florida. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 581.145.

 

It is unlawful to place or cause to be placed any water hyacinths in state waters. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 861.04.

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Georgia: Listed - E. azurea

Georgia incorporates the federal noxious weed list by reference, thereby listing E. azurea as a noxious weed seed under state law. All seed and vegetative propagules of weeds listed in 7 C.F.R. 360 are prohibited to be intermixed or commingled with any agriculture, vegetable, or ornamental seed. Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 40-12-4-.01.

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Hawaii: Unlisted

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Idaho: Unlisted

Water hyacinths are not listed as a prohibited aquatic invasive species in Idaho, although E. crassipes is listed on the Statewide EDRR Noxious Weed List. If listed plants are found to occur in Idaho, they must be reported to the Idaho Department of Agriculture within 10 days and eradicated during the same growing season as identified. Idaho Admin. Code r. 02.06.09.220. Articles infested with designated noxious weeds may not be moved from designated premises until treated or written permission received from a control authority. Idaho Code Ann. § 22-2407.

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Illinois: Listed - E. azurea

E. azurea is a listed injurious species in Illinois. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 17, § 805.20. Injurious species may not be possessed, propagated, bought, sold, bartered, transported, traded, transferred or loaned to any other person or institution without a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Ill. Admin. Code tit. 17, § 805.30.

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Indiana: Listed - E. azurea

E. azurea is listed as a prohibited invasive aquatic plant in Indiana. It is unlawful to sell, offer for sale, gift, barter, exchange, or distribute a prohibited invasive aquatic plant except as authorized under a permit issued by the state entomologist. 312 Ind. Admin. Code 18-3-23.

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Iowa: Unlisted

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Kansas: Unlisted

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Kentucky: Unlisted

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Louisiana: Listed - E. azurea

E. azurea is listed as an “Invasive Noxious Aquatic Plant” in Louisiana. It is unlawful to import or cause to be transported an invasive noxious aquatic plant into the state without a permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Permits may be issued for the importation, transportation, or possession of any invasive noxious aquatic plant for the purpose of conducting scientific investigations. 76 La. Admin. Code Pt VII, 1101.

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Maine: Unlisted

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Maryland: Unlisted

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Massachusetts: Listed - E. azurea

E. azurea is included on the List of Massachusetts Prohibited Plants. The sale, import, trade, purchase, distribution, propagation, and related activities of listed species is prohibited within the state. Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List.

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Michigan: Unlisted

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Minnesota: Listed - Both Species

Minnesota incorporates the federal noxious weed list by reference, thereby designating E. azurea as prohibited invasive species. Minn. R. 6216.0250. No person may possess, import, purchase, propagate, or transport a prohibited invasive species without a permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. A person may apply for a permit for prohibited invasive species only for the purposes of disposal, decontamination, control, research, or education. Minn. R. 6216.0265

 

E. crassipes is listed as a “regulated invasive species” in Minnesota. Minn. R. 6216.0260. It is unlawful to introduce a regulated invasive species without a permit from the Minnesota DNR. A regulated invasive species permit is not required for a person to possess, import, purchase, propagate, transport, own, or sell a regulated invasive species.

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Mississippi: Listed - Both Species

Both E. azurea and E. crassipes are listed as prohibited species in the state’s guidelines for aquaculture activities. No person may import, sell, possess, transport, release or cause to be released into the waters of the state any prohibited species. Prohibited species may be allowed under a permit issued by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce where environmental impact has been assessed. 2 Code Miss. R. Pt. 1, Subpt. 4, Ch. 11.

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Missouri: Unlisted

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Montana: Unlisted Nebraska: Unlisted Nevada: Unlisted

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New Hampshire: Unlisted

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New Jersey: Unlisted

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New Mexico: Unlisted

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New York: Unlisted

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North Carolina: Listed - Both Species

Both E. azurea and E. crassipes are designated “noxious aquatic weeds” in North Carolina. E. azurea was designated due to its inclusion on the federal noxious weed list. E. crassipes is listed as a separate additional species. 15A N.C. Admin. Code 1T.0108. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services may regulate the importation, sale, use, culture, collection, transportation, and distribution of a noxious aquatic weed as a plant pest. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 113A-224.

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North Dakota: Unlisted

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Ohio: Listed - E. azurea

E. azurea is listed as an invasive plant species in Ohio. No person shall sell, offer for sale, propagate, distribute, import or intentionally cause the dissemination of any invasive plant. A person may use an invasive plant for research or educational purposes pursuant to a compliance agreement issued by the department. Ohio Admin. Code 901:5-30-01.

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Oklahoma: Listed - E. azurea

E. azurea is listed as a noxious aquatic plant species in Oklahoma. Okla. Admin. Code 800:20-3-2. A. It is unlawful to import into, transport in, place or cause to be placed in the waters of; or cultivate or cause to propagate in the waters of Oklahoma any noxious aquatic plant or seed or reproductive part thereof. Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 29, § 6-601.

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Oregon: Unlisted

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Pennsylvania: Listed - E. azurea

Pennsylvania incorporates the federal noxious weed list in 7 CFR 360.200 by reference, thereby classifying E. azurea as a “Class C” noxious weed in the state. 3 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1519. Except as authorized under a permit allowing use for educational or research purposes, it is unlawful to distribute, cultivate or propagate any noxious weed within the state. 3 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1515.

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Rhode Island: Unlisted

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South Carolina: Listed - E. crassipes & General Prohibition by Common Name

In South Carolina, it is unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, import, bring, or cause to be brought or imported water hyacinth into the state, or release or place water hyacinth into any state waters. Special permits may be issued by the department to authorized prohibited activities.

S.C. Code Ann. § 50-13-1415.

 

E. crassipes is listed as a noxious weed in South Carolina. Noxious weed may not be imported into South Carolina or sold or distributed within the state. S.C. Code Ann. Regs. 5-584.

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South Dakota: Unlisted

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Tennessee: Unlisted

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Texas: Unlisted

Both E. azurea and E. crassipes are designated as “harmful or potentially harmful exotic species” in Texas.

31 Tex. Admin. Code § 57.112. Unless authorized under a permit issued by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department it is unlawful to introduce into public water, possess, import, export, sell, purchase, transport, propagate, or culture a controlled exotic species. 31 Tex. Admin. Code § 57.113.

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Utah: Unlisted

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Vermont: Listed - E. azurea

Vermont incorporates the federal noxious weed list by reference, thereby designating E. azurea as a “Class B” noxious weed under state law. Vt. Code R. § 2-3-210 Appendix A. The sale, movement, or distribution of Class B Noxious Weeds is prohibited. 2-3 Vt. Code R. § 210.

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Virginia: Unlisted

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Washington: Unlisted

Live turtles with a carapace length of less than four inches may not be sold, held for sale, or offered for sale or distribution in Washington for the purpose of being kept as a pet. Wash. Admin. Code 246-100-191.

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West Virginia: Listed - E. azurea

West Virginia incorporates the federal noxious weed list by reference, thereby designating E. azurea as a noxious weed in the state. W. Va. Code R. 61-14A-5; W. Va. Code St. R. 61-14A App. A. It is unlawful to move, transport, deliver, ship or offer for shipment into or within this state any noxious weed without first obtaining a permit from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and such permit shall be issued only after it has been determined that the noxious weed is generally present throughout the state or is for scientific purposes subject to prescribed safeguards. W. Va. Code Ann.

§ 19-12D-7.

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Wisconsin: Listed - Both Species

E. azurea and E. crassipes are designated as “prohibited invasive species” in Wisconsin. Wis. Admin. Code NR § 40.04. It is unlawful to transport, possess, transfer or introduce a prohibited invasive species unless authorized by a permit issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Wis. Admin. Code NR § 40.06.

 

Wyoming: Unlisted

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