Smugglers have spent at least four months attempting to mail thousands of live crabs to the United States through Cincinnati.
Customs and Border Protection agents in Cincinnati estimated Wednesday they’d intercepted about 3,700 illegal mitten crabs — a particularly invasive species native to China — at the Port of Cincinnati since September 2019.
The packages came from China and Hong Kong, according to a news release from CBP. Most were destined for New York, but others were on their way to homes and businesses across the country.
Although an adult mitten crab weighs less than a pound, they reproduce quickly and abundantly, eat omnivorously and can overwhelm new ecosystems. They live in freshwater, where they compete with native wildlife for food and occasionally burrow through industrial infrastructure such as dams.
Importing them into the United States without a permit has been illegal since 1900. They occasionally make headlines in Europe, where they have been spotted in England’s River Thames, the River Clyde in Scotland and the canals of Bruges, Belgium.
Smugglers have attempted to ship more mitten crabs through Cincinnati than anywhere else, according to CBP. In total, across the country, inspectors have found and confiscated 15,000 crabs in packages destined for the United States.