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Good, Bad News From Search For Invasive Green Crabs In Straits, Sound

Crews searching for invasive European green crab along Washington’s saltwater shores recently were relieved to find only one during a recent survey at a Whidbey Island site, but it’s a different story at the tip of the North Coast.

EUROPEAN GREEN CRAB COLLECTED AT DUNGENESS NWR IN 2017. (ALLEN PLEUS, WDFW)

Nearly 400 have been found at Neah Bay since last fall, the largest concentration discovered so far on the US side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and northern Puget Sound.

The unwanted shellfish have also been reported at Dungeness Spit, with 96 collected last year and 42 so far this year, according to a report in the Sequim Gazette, Westcott Bay on San Juan Island, Padilla Bay and southern Sequim Bay.

Efforts to remove the crabs are being led by state, tribal, university and federal agencies.

The worry is that if green crabs establish a sustaining population, they could damage eelgrass pastures — so important for our salmonids and other fish — and clam beds.

Last year, two were found at Lagoon Point on Whidbey, the first inside the mouth of Admiralty Inlet — the primary entrance to the Central and South Sound and numerous potential sites for colonies to take hold — and during a follow-up search last week, a third turned up.

Kelly Martin at Washington Sea Grant blogged that the 57.5mm-long male appeared to be from the same age-class as the two others, and between that and the lack of others found was “a relief.”

“Green crab still have a presence in the lagoon at Lagoon Point, but their population has not exploded since last fall,” Martin wrote, adding that monitoring will continue.

Genetic work suggests that the crabs at Dungeness did not come from Sooke, across the Straits on the southern shore of Vancouver Island, but their larvae drifted in from a source somewhere else on the West Coast.

A WSG map shows dozens upon dozens of locations in Puget Sound and Hood Canal south of Lagoon Point with a high or moderate suitability for the species.

To learn how to spot green crabs and differentiate them from juvenile Dungies and red rocks, as well as find out more about the efforts of WSG’s Crab Team, go here.