Published: June 1, 2023
In response to the Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 5693 (2022 c 297) legislative budget proviso directive, this report has been authored as the third in a series of ongoing quarterly progress reports (Q3). This report will serve to outline the successes and challenges of ongoing European green crab (EGC) emergency response efforts in Washington state from January 1 to March 31, 2023. In addition, this report will put the work during Q3 in the context of the work completed in 2022 (Q1 and Q2).
In 2021, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), co-managers, tribes, 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 outer coastal areas including Grays Harbor, Makah Bay, and Willapa Bay. On Dec. 14, 2021, WDFW Director Susewind submitted an emergency measures request under Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 77.135.090 for EGC response to Governor Jay Inslee. On Jan. 19, 2022, Governor 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 State 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 third in a series of ongoing quarterly progress reports (Q3). The Q3 report will outline the successes and challenges of ongoing EGC emergency response efforts in Washington state from January 1 to March 31, 2023.
An Incident Command System (ICS) was established to deal with the complexities of the EGC management effort. Support for and coordination with co-managers, tribes and partners 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. The ICS also resulted in the creation and distribution of various updates including reports to the governor every 10 days and Situation Reports (SitReps) based on operational periods (monthly January and February, then bi-weekly until November) 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. These Situation Reports were synthesized for the public, media, and other external audiences in EGC Public Updates published bi-monthly in January/February and March/April distributed through WDFW’s EGC Management Updates email list as well as Department webpages, communications, and social media channels.
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. In Q3, the EGC MAC group continued to meet and review/recommend the new
Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) EGC Emergency Measures Fund request for proposals. In addition, the EGC MAC group continued the implementation of the Fiscal Year 2023 EGC Emergency Measures Strategic Action Plan.
Trapping activities in Q3 remained relatively low due to cold weather and the expected reduction in EGC activity. Many entities had yet to begin their trapping seasons, though trapping continued in several areas resulting in the removal of EGC throughout Q3. Coordination efforts among co-managers, tribes, and partners were a focus of this relative trapping downtime. WSG and WDFW hosted meetings to discuss lessons learned from 2022, priorities for 2023 and to plan the future of EGC management.
During the Q3 period, the collective effort of all organizations involved in EGC management removed 37,158 additional EGC from Washington state marine waters, with 35,274 from the Coastal Branch and 1,689 from the Salish Sea Branch. Since January 1, 2022, approximately 322,438 EGC have been removed from Washington state marine waters, with 239,743 removed from the Coast Branch, and 82,695 removed from the Salish Sea Branch. In addition to active removal trapping, Q3 trap deployment occurred in areas where EGC had not previously been detected for early-detection monitoring. EGC has not been detected in the Salish Sea Branch south of the 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, co-managers, tribes, and partners achieved significant progress in EGC management efforts. With the creation of the EGC Research Tasks Force, steps are underway to coordinate with EGC researchers across the Pacific coast of North America to determine research priorities to support EGC management efforts in Washington state and throughout the region. Additional progress was also made on public outreach and community engagement to support EGC awareness, with WDFW representatives engaging more than 2,000 individuals during over a dozen event days and producing a range of new outreach materials. While challenges remain (e.g., completion of a standardized electronic trapping data submission, hiring staff, and creation of the Fiscal Year 2024 Strategic Action Plan), the continued efforts of all parties and the clear organizational structure set in 2022 will allow for continued success during the 2023 emergency response field season.