Published: December 1, 2022
In 2021, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), tribal co-managers, and partners identified an exponential increase of invasive European green crab (EGC), Carcinus maenas, in the Lummi Nation’s Sea Pond within the Salish Sea, and in Pacific coastal areas including Makah Bay, Grays Harbor, and Willapa Bay. On Dec. 14, 2021, WDFW Director Susewind submitted an emergency measures request under RCW 77.135.090 for EGC response to Governor Jay Inslee. On Jan. 19, 2022, Governor Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation (#22-02) to address the exponential increase in EGC populations across Washington’s marine shorelines. The proclamation directed WDFW to eradicate, reduce, or contain EGC in Washington. The Washington legislature approved $8,568,000 in emergency funding during the 2022 Supplemental Budget to facilitate increased EGC management efforts. In response to the legislative budget proviso directive, this report is the first in a series of ongoing quarterly progress reports (Q1). The Q1 report will outline the successes and challenges of ongoing EGC emergency response efforts in Washington State from March 1 to September 30, 2022.
An Incident Command System (ICS) was established to deal with the complexities of the EGC management effort. WDFW’s Aquatic Invasive Species Policy Coordinator was appointed as Incident Commander. This approach provides a clear command structure, standardizes communications and management action implementation across the state. In addition, it allows WDFW to support federal and tribal co-managers across the state while they retain their autonomy in EGC management decisions and actions. Support for and coordination with our partners and tribal co-managers is essential, as the scale of the EGC emergency is such that no one entity could ever hope to implement successful statewide management strategies alone. Washington Sea Grant (WSG), the Lummi Nation, the Makah Tribe, the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, shellfish growers and various other entities have continued their ongoing efforts managing EGC populations, closely coordinating with WDFW. In addition, representatives from most entities participating in EGC management have joined the ICS Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) group. The MAC group provides a forum for these representatives to share information, establish a common operating picture, develop long-term priorities for the EGC emergency, and commit and allocate funding and other resources to enhance emergency measures responses. Situation Reports were disseminated among management participants after each two-week operational period to provide information on and ensure transparency regarding management actions taken, grant funding allocations, EGC catch numbers, trapping efforts, media outreach, and other relevant information.
Actions taken in Q1 resulted in a significant expansion of management efforts throughout the state. New staff hires have vastly increased WDFW trapping efforts across the state while also providing a high level of expertise in various fields (e.g., data management, geographic information systems, outreach, and research) which the program had been lacking. The procurement of high-value equipment (e.g., vehicles), gear (e.g., traps), and travel resources allowed WDFW to expand the reach of our efforts throughout the state significantly. Pass-through funding and allocation of equipment provided support for tribal co-managers and partners. Increased mass communication efforts (e.g., public updates, EGC Management update email list, numerous online resources for identification and reporting) and focused outreach (e.g., signage and outreach materials, public presentations) have enhanced public awareness and EGC reporting potential.
The collective effort of all organizations involved in EGC management resulted in the removal of 190,288 EGC from Washington State marine waters, with 114,431 removed from the Pacific Coast region and 75,857 removed from the Salish Sea region. In addition to active removal trapping, trap deployment occurred in areas where EGC had not previously been detected for early-detection monitoring. To date, EGC have not been detected in the Salish Sea south of northern Hood Canal. Data on EGC abundance, body size, sex ratios, and reproductive status were collected for future analysis, along with DNA and RNA samples to assess connectivity between EGC populations.
WDFW, WSG, tribal co-managers, and partners achieved significant progress in EGC management efforts in a short timeframe. While challenges remain (e.g., implementing standardized electronic trapping data submission, and developing the Fiscal Year 2023 Strategic Action Plan), the continued efforts of all parties and the clear organizational structure set in Q1 will allow for continued success in Q2.
Turner B, Pleus A, Gunnell C. 2022. European Green Crab Quarterly Progress Report – Fall 2022. Olympia, WA: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.