Published: September 1, 2023
In response to the ESSB 5693 (2022 c 297) legislative budget proviso directive, this report has been authored as the fourth in a series of ongoing quarterly progress reports (Q4). This report will serve to outline the successes and challenges of ongoing European green crab (EGC) emergency response efforts in Washington state from April 1 to June 30, 2023. In addition, this report will put the work during Q4 in the context of the previous work completed (Q1-Q3).
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 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 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 fourth in a series of ongoing quarterly progress reports (Q4). The Q4 report will outline the successes and challenges of ongoing EGC emergency response efforts in Washington state from April 1 to June 30, 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 through June) 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 bi-monthly EGC Public Updates published and 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 Q4, the EGC MAC Group continued the implementation of the Fiscal Year 2023 EGC Emergency Measures Strategic Action Plan.
Trapping activities in Q4 increased resulting from warmer weather conditions and expected increases in EGC activity. All entities involved in EGC management were in the field. Meetings among co-managers, tribes, and partners in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor took place to discuss lessons learned and priorities moving forward for the future of EGC management.
During the Q4 period, the collective effort of all organizations involved in EGC management removed 64,967 additional EGC from Washington state marine waters, with 62,558 from the Coastal Branch and 2,409 from the Salish Sea Branch. Since January 1, 2022, approximately 387,399 EGC have been removed from Washington state marine waters, with 302,301 removed from the Coast Branch, and 85,104 removed from the Salish Sea Branch. In addition to active removal trapping, Q4 trap deployment for early detection monitoring occurred in areas where EGC had not previously been detected. 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. The EGC Research Task Force continues 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 education and community engagement to support EGC awareness, with WDFW representatives engaging approximately 1,200 individuals at public events and producing new outreach materials, and the activation of the EGC Hub website. While challenges remain (e.g., finalizing the Fiscal Year 2024 Strategic Action Plan, refinement of electronic data collection software, creation of a 5-year statewide management plan), the continued efforts of all parties and the clear organizational structure set previously will allow for continued success during the remainder of the 2023 emergency response field season.