Live European green crabs confiscated from seafood market; species remains prohibited in Washington

WDFW statement

In early December Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Police received information that a Seattle market was selling live “green crabs”. Fish and Wildlife Officers Trent Weidert and Nick Libbing went to investigate.  

It was determined that the retail market had bought approximately 30 pounds of live green crabs from a distributer in Massachusetts with the intent of selling them for use in crab stock and soup. Marketed only as “green crabs”, the seller did not appear to know that they were in fact European green crabs (EGC) regulated by Washington state as a prohibited invasive species.

The seller was very cooperative with Officer Libbing and the crabs were confiscated and destroyed. WDFW Police and Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) unit staff are working to increase outreach to local seafood sellers and shippers regarding the state’s invasive species regulations, how they can find out which species are Prohibited, and what they need to do for sale under WAC 220-640-051.

Further investigation into the Massachusetts seafood distributer continues, including contact with Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game wardens about possible ramifications for interstate trafficking of live invasive species, and whether they were sold to other Pacific Northwest states or provinces.

Under the state's ongoing emergency order, Washington’s EGC Incident Command objectives include reduction of green crab populations to levels which are not harmful to environmental, economic, or cultural resources. At this time commercial or recreational markets for European green crabs would be detrimental to these objectives.

Invasive species sold for food or fishing bait are sometimes released (intentionally or unintentionally) and are known to be among the causes of their spread in other states and regions. In Washington, European green crabs are not currently found within central or south Puget Sound and should not be introduced anywhere in the state.

European green crabs are classified as a Prohibited Level 1 Invasive Species in Washington, meaning they may not be possessed, introduced on or into a water body or property, or trafficked (transported, bought or sold), without WDFW authorization.

This event is an important reminder of the regulations around European green crab and the responsibility of seafood sellers, buyers and shippers to avoid potentially spreading them.

Thank you and great job, WDFW Police, especially Officers Weidert and Libbing for their work on this case!

For additional green crab updates, please see our November/December European Green Crab Public Update

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