A better way to identify, stop invasive green crabs in Washington

Invasive European green crabs continue to pose a threat to the Pacific Northwest, and Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has shared new information to help the community identify the crabs. 

WDFW says everyday Washingtonians can help our community by documenting and reporting invasive European green crab sightings on their website.  

European green crabs are often confused with native shore and kelp crabs. While the key indicator of a green crab is its color, they can also appear yellow or orange, especially on their underside, legs, and claws. 

According to Washington Sea Grant Jeff Adams, counting the five "teeth" on either edge of their shell is the best method to distinguish green crabs from other noninvasive species.

European green crabs thrive in shallow water and soft sediment, which Washington’s estuaries provide. And over the past two years it seems the populations of green crab are exploding, especially on the coast.

According to WDFW’s website, European green crabs are a globally damaging invasive species that pose a threat to Washington's economic, environmental, and cultural resources. Potential impacts include destruction of eelgrass beds and estuarine marsh habitats, threats to the shellfish industry, the Dungeness crab fishery, salmon recovery, and other ecological impacts to food webs.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has allocated some $2.2 million to fighting the spread of European green crabs. That’s more than a third of its $6 million aquatic invasive species budget for the 2021-2023 biennium.

RELATED: New population of invasive green crabs found in Washington

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Among the places where green crabs have been spotted, Makah Bay, south of Cape Flattery on the Olympic Peninsula has reported green crab sightings since 2017.

Arianne Akmajian, a marine ecologist with the Makah Tribe, says the only way to contain the spread of European green crabs is through labor-intensive trapping and monitoring. And they’re likely a threat – like a virus – that will never go away completely.


Invasive green crabs spreading along Washington coast, officials say

European green crabs were found in Washington’s inland waters in 2016, prompting extensive monitoring. Now state officials say this destructive invasive species is spreading in several coastal locations.

WDFW has teamed up with the Washington Sea Grant Crab Team who is leading a volunteer-based early detection and monitoring program for European green crab. To learn more about early detection, monitoring, and volunteer opportunities, visit the Sea Grant’s Crab Team website.

You can also report European green crab sightings on WDFW's website, or call WDFW Aquatic Invasive Species staff at 1-888-933-9247.

RELATED: Invasive green crabs found in Puget Sound


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