WA preparing to protect marine life against invasive green crab

Feb 22, 2023, 5:12 PM
green crab...
European green crab (Photo courtesy of WDFW)
(Photo courtesy of WDFW)

Washington state is hard at work to contain the spread of the European green crab, an invasive species that jumps in population in the spring.

Green crabs are considered one of the most invasive species in the marine environment, according to NOAA Fisheries, due to having few predators and their tendency to aggressively hunt prey while also destroying seagrass. As a result, green crabs outcompete local species for both food and habitat.

Green crabs illegally sold at a Seattle market confiscated

It has been documented, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), that green crabs devour juvenile king crabs in addition to juvenile salmon, but wildlife managers said increased trapping has them hopeful European green crabs might be kept under control in Washington.

“European green crabs are one of the worst invasive species,” Brian Turner with WDFW told KIRO Newsradio. “They can survive in colder and warmer temperatures, and they also reproduce very quickly.”

A female green crab can release nearly 200,000 eggs in one cycle.

Officials want residents to send photos to WDFW with locations if they spot the invasive crab.

Possessing or transporting live European green crabs is illegal in Washington.

Green crabs are not always green, but have five spines on either side of their eyes. They are usually four inches wide or less. They generally eat marine plants, baby crabs, oysters, and clams. They also burrow under areas where salmon lay their eggs.

Last spring, an invasive green crab was found in Hood Canal for the first time. State wildlife managers also said a male European green crab was found in Nick’s Lagoon near Seabeck — the southernmost sighting of the crabs in Washington.

Last year, Governor Inslee issued an emergency order to increase green crab tracking and eradication. The order directs the Department of Ecology to identify European green crab management as a high priority on their state-owned aquatic lands and to facilitate implementing emergency measures.

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WA preparing to protect marine life against invasive green crab