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OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has launched a new online European Green Crab Hub (EGC Hub) to support the coordination of ongoing emergency measures and provide public information about the management of this invasive species.
This coincides with the continued ramp up of trapping to control these harmful shore crabs in Washington waters. WDFW’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) unit anticipates deploying more than 25 staff and 1,000 traps during the 2023 field season, along with other equipment and resources. Catch data will be updated on the EGC Hub throughout the spring-fall field season.
“As we continue to expand efforts to control European green crabs, we expect public interest to grow,” said Chelsey Buffington, WDFW’s European Green Crab Project Lead. “We also expect that more organizations will become involved with EGC management. The EGC Hub provides a streamlined platform for WDFW, Native American tribes, shellfish growers, and other agencies and partners to organize data and share information, increasing communication and transparency.”
The EGC Hub features a dashboard showing European green crab catch within the Coastal and Salish Sea Branches, including Management Areas based on established Washington Marine Areas. The online resource also includes information about the co-managers, tribes, and partners collaborating with WDFW. These emergency response participants can use the EGC Hub to submit catch data, learn about required permits and ways to minimize bycatch, and access information about available funding, equipment, and other resources.
The EGC Hub also features an interactive StoryMap with a comprehensive overview of European green crabs in Washington and their history. More information on EGC is available on the WDFW invasive species webpage.
Under the direction of Gov. Inslee’s Jan. 2022 Emergency Order, WDFW leads an Incident Command System (ICS) to coordinate agencies, tribes, and partners working to control EGC. These entities removed more than 285,000 of the invasive crabs from Washington waters in 2022, most from Willapa Bay and the Lummi Nation’s Sea Pond.
Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor are top priorities for the 2023 field season given continued high EGC capture rates. In the northern Puget Sound Region, green crab capture rates have declined following extensive removals in 2021 and 2022, but efforts will continue under the leadership of the Lummi Nation, WDFW, and partners.
The European green crab is a globally damaging invasive species that threatens Washington’s environment, coastal economies, and tribal and cultural resources. Potential impacts include destruction of eelgrass beds and estuarine marsh habitats, threats to the harvest of wild shellfish and the shellfish aquaculture industry, salmon and forage fish recovery, and a complex array of ecological impacts to food webs.
European green crabs are shore crabs and are found in shallow areas—typically less than 25 feet of water—including estuaries, intertidal zones, and beaches. They are not likely to be caught by shrimpers or crabbers operating in deeper water, but may be encountered by beachgoers, waders, clam and oyster harvesters, or those crabbing off docks or piers in shallow areas.
As a Prohibited Invasive Species, it is illegal to possess a live European green crab in Washington. Currently, WDFW is not asking the public to kill suspected green crabs. This is to protect native crabs, which are often misidentified and illegally killed. Community outreach and public engagement efforts are underway by WDFW and partners to support accurate identification of European green crabs. Guides and other educational resources are available on the EGC Hub.
For those who own or manage shellfish beds, beaches, or tidelands, support and permits for European green crab trapping may be available depending upon coordination and training resource capacity.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.