Watch out for the crayfish?

At the beginning of the year, I was intrigued by a headline: Invasion of a crayfish species worries biologists. What are they worried about? Freshwater crayfish are small, not dangerous and they are good to eat.

I have known since my early years that crayfish can be used as bait. I also knew that they were considered a delicacy in French cuisine but I had not had the pleasure of eating any until I visited the shop of a commercial fisherman in Notre-Dame-de-Pierreville. My family originates from the area and the village is well known for its smoked sturgeon and yellow perch filets. Every year, I go for a visit to stock up; maybe twenty years ago I was looking into their freezer when I noticed a container of what I guessed were cooked ready to eat crayfish tails. On impulse I bought without asking for the price. When I saw the invoice, the fisherman’s wife noticed my surprise and simply explained: “Do you realize how much work is involved in preparing those tails?” The whole family loved them.

It was only a few years later that I found crayfish on my plate. I was visiting Lyon and I could not wait to visit their famous bouchon, restaurants, that serve traditional Lyonnaise cuisine; the first two restaurants that we tried were a disappointment; obvious tourist traps. On the third day, we decided to ask the hotel concierge and he recommended the Poêlon d’Or on Remparts d’Ainay street. After starting with a terrine en croute I ordered pike quenelles, in a crayfish sauce, a traditional Lyon dish. This was one of the best meals I have ever had. A nice coincidence, a few months later I went Chez Delmo on St. James and had shrimps in a Nantua sauce. The sauce is a béchamel prepared with crayfish flavoured butter.

A long detour to come back to the invasion of the crayfish. Bureaucrats are worried about the rusty crayfish a specie that comes from the United States and that is currently invading Brome Lake. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Ressources is preoccupied by this invasion. The rusty crayfish is bigger and more aggressive than our indigenous species and it is taking over their habitat. The rusty crayfish is making its way to the Yamaska River and will shortly arrive in the St. Lawrence. The Ministry admits that nothing can stop them and they don’t know what impact this invasion will have on the fish and marine invertebrates that live in the river. For them the rusty crayfish is a mystery.

Commercial fishermen are now fishing our indigenous crayfish in Lac Saint-Pierre and are happy to see the arrival of these larger rusty crayfish. But the Ministry who knows nothing about them has decided that they cannot be captured or eaten. When Arnaud Rohr, the owner of restaurant La Pérousse in Bromont learned of the existence of the larger rusty crayfish in Brome Lac, he had the bright idea of placing them on his menu. The Ministry refused to deliver a commercial fishing permit. Why? “The Ministry does not have enough information on the rusty crayfish.”

So if I understand correctly, the commercial capture of our little Québécois crayfish is allowed, but the fishing of the larger American crayfish is prohibited. Can someone explain?

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