Invasive European green crab found in Kitsap County’s Hood Canal

SEATTLE— An invasive European green crab was captured this week in Hood Canal, the farthest south the species has been found in the Salish Sea.

Volunteers with Washington Sea Grant trapped the male European green crab in Nick’s Lagoon near Seabeck in Kitsap County, The Seattle Times reported. The organization has been tasked by the state with early detection of the crab’s spread.

EUROPEAN INVASIVE GREEN CRABS

European green crabs are one of the most widespread invasive marine species on the planet. Where they are abundant, green crabs outcompete other native shellfish. They are voracious eaters and a major predator of clams, mussels, and oysters.

One study suggests that a single green crab can eat around 22 clams per day. They also actively disturb bed sediments, leading to the loss of the eelgrass that serves as essential habitat for Dungeness crab and Pacific salmon.

In 2021, more than 102,000 European green crabs were caught in Puget Sound and along Washington’s coast. This was an astronomical 5,500% increase from the 1,800 crabs caught just two years earlier in 2019.

In response to the explosion in the green crab population, a series of disaster declarations were made by the Lummi Nation and the Makah Tribe concerning the green crabs’ impact on Tribal culture and economy. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee followed suit and issued an emergency order to mobilize state resources.

Washington takes emergency action to stop invasive green crabs.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency order to address the explosion of the European green crab population within the Lummi Nation’s Sea Pond and outer coast areas, Wednesday, Jan. 19.

The emergency order creates three primary actions to eradicate the invasive species and prevent permanent establishment, which would particularly harm endangered species, impact resources that are part of the cultural identity of Washington Tribes and Native peoples, and affect small businesses.

Under the order, the Department of Fish and Wildlife will implement emergency measures. The Department of Ecology, the Department of Natural Resources and the State Parks and Recreation Commission will identify European green crab management as a high priority on their respective state-owned aquatic lands and facilitate implementing emergency measures.

Finally, the order urges the Legislature to provide additional emergency funding as requested by the Department of Fish and Wildlife as soon as possible.

Effort to control invasive European green crabs on Washington coast.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that it is working with its partners and tribes to “deploy resources and get more boots in the mud” to control infestations of the invasive European green crab along the coast and certain sites within the Salish Sea.

Officials said the crabs pose a threat to the state’s economic, environmental and cultural resources. The crabs “are a globally damaging invasive species.”

“Potential impacts include destruction of eelgrass beds and estuarine marsh habitats, threats to the harvest of wild shellfish and the shellfish aquaculture industry, the Dungeness crab fishery, salmon recovery and a complex array of ecological impacts to food webs,” Fish and Wildlife officials said. 

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