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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


June 09, 1998
Contact: Jeff Weathersby, (360) 902-2256

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Green crab shell found in Willapa Bay

WILLAPA BAY-- A European green crab shell has been found at Leadbetter Point and state scientists are trying to determine if it means the crustacean has entered Washington marine waters.

It is the first evidence the crab may be in Washington waters and scientists now are trying to determine if living green crabs are in Willapa Bay.

The European green crab can consume large numbers of clams, oysters, mussels and other species of crabs that have commercial and recreational importance.

The one-inch shell was found June 1 by Janie Civille, DNR's spartina coordinator and Andrew Cohen, a scientist from the San Francisco Estuary Institute in Richmond, Calif. as they were monitoring efforts to control spartina, a non-native grass.

Scientists estimate the green crab shell belonged to a male approximately a year old.

WDFW scientists are coordinating the effort by state agencies and commercial shellfish growers to determine if live green crabs are present in Willapa Bay.

"If green crabs have reached Willapa Bay, Puget Sound is clearly at risk," said John Dohrmann, with the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team. "We need to increase our monitoring efforts and take steps to slow the spread of green crabs in Washington."

Preventing the introduction of non-native marine life that threatens native species is a top priority for the Action Team, which is a governor's office program.

State agencies also are developing a comprehensive plan to deal with green crab and other nuisance aquatic species in response to legislation (SB 6114) recently signed into law by Gov. Locke.

The green crab is native to Europe but has invaded the eastern coast of the United States as well as Australia, Tasmania and South Africa. It decimated Maine's soft-shell clam industry in the 1950's. It was found in San Francisco Bay in 1989 or 1990. By 1995 it was found in Bodega Bay, Calif. Green crabs were found in Coos Bay, Ore. last year.

Adult crabs grow to about three inches wide. They are voracious eaters and can eat young Dungeness crabs. They nibble away the shells of oysters and clams until they can eat the animals.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Washington State Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan addresses the prevention and control of many aquatic pests, including green crab. A copy of this plan, which is out for public review until June 15, can be obtained from Scott Smith, Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator, (360) 902-2724.