Red swamp crayfish importation, transportation and possession now legal in Colorado

Crawfish lovers can rejoice as red swamp crayfish, otherwise known as Louisiana crawfish, become legal in Colorado. Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, Coloradans can import, transport and possess red swamp crayfish for human consumption. Release and use as bait remains illegal to protect Colorado’s lakes and rivers.

For many, spring crawfish boils are an important family and community event. Unbeknown to many, the importation of red swamp crayfish, tasty and popular to consume, was illegal in Colorado, until now.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife now allows the importation, transportation, and possession of live red swamp crayfish in Colorado for human consumption, provided the following conditions are met:

  • No person may possess an individual of the species alive for more than 72 hours.
  • Any person who possesses the species alive must have:
    • copy of an importation license that authorizes the importation of the crayfish in the person’s possession; and
    • a receipt or delivery confirmation reflecting the date the person took possession of the crayfish.

The importation of many live aquatic species is illegal due to the threat they can pose to our aquatic resources (e.g. rusty crayfish, New Zealand mudsnails, zebra/quagga mussels) and the importation of most live crayfish species remains illegal in Colorado.

How does this affect consumers and businesses?
This regulation change will primarily impact businesses that import crayfish into Colorado and should have minimal impact on the average consumer. In most cases, the business importing live crayfish will apply for the importation license and a copy of the approved license must accompany the shipment of crayfish. Consumers buying live crayfish from a vendor will receive a copy of the importation license along with the required receipt. Consumers buying cooked crayfish from a restaurant will be unaffected.

Importation licenses are available for $91 per calendar year through

Why was this change made?
In early 2023, CPW became aware of a large market for live red swamp crayfish in the state. After further investigation, it was discovered that illegal imports of live red swamp crayfish had been occurring for years, if not decades, with most importers unaware they were breaking the law.

A public outreach campaign determined that many members of the public believed that CPW should allow the regulated importation of live red swamp crayfish for human consumption.

CPW then drafted proposed regulation changes (approved by the Colorado Fish Health Board) that were finalized at the November Commission meeting.

In Nov. 2023, the Parks and Wildlife Commission approved regulation changes to allow for the importation, transportation and possession of live red swamp crayfish in Colorado for the purpose of human consumption. The changes went into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

Check out our website for more information about CPW’s Aquatic Management Program.