Washington’s invasive European green crab problem received some federal attention today as a pair of Congress members visited a Strait of Juan de Fuca bay where the unwanted crustaceans have been found.
“I will be writing our nation’s spending bills for the next fiscal year and here’s the bottom line: this is a priority for Puget Sound and all of Washington state – so I’m going to make sure it’s a federal priority, too,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, during a tour of Sequim Bay with Jamestown S’Klallam, WDFW, Washington Sea Grant and other officials.
While none of the crabs were found today, last year saw the state really ramp up awareness and efforts around controlling them, with over 285,000 trapped by WDFW, tribes and others in 2022 alone, mostly on the outer coast but many also in the straits, northern Puget Sound and, in a first, Hood Canal. That followed on the removal of tens of thousands from a Lummi Nation sea pond in late 2021.
The first European green crab in Washington’s inside waters turned up in 2016 after either drifting across the strait as larva from an infested harbor on Vancouver Island or being swept in by ocean and Salish Sea currents.
The worry is that the crabs will alter and affect nearshore ecosystems important to other marine species, as well as put the state’s important shellfish industry at risk, a story covered today by reporter Tom Banse.
“Unfortunately, we are becoming all too familiar with the threat that European Green Crabs pose to our environment,” said Congressman Derek Kilmer (D), who represents the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas and Tacoma area. “We have a responsibility to eliminate this invasive species so that we can protect our native species, support our shellfish farmers, and uphold our treaty responsibilities for Washington’s tribes. I’m going to keep pushing for the federal government to be a strong partner in that effort.”
Per a press release from Murray’s office, while three relevant federal agencies have coordinated response and staff time with state officials on the problem, they haven’t contributed federal dollars to the effort.
“Whether it’s the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, or NOAA – these agencies have an important role to play – and as Senate Appropriations Chair, I’m going to work to make sure they do their part,” stated Washington’s senior senator.
For help identifying and to report European green crabs in Washington, go to WDFW’s webpage for the species, here.