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Maine's Green Crab Invasion Subject of Summit
12/16/2013   Reported By: Tom Porter

Scientists, state officials and seafood harvesters came together today for a summit to discuss the threat posed by one unwelcome visitor to the shores of Maine: the invasive European green crab. The creature first came to Maine about 200 years ago, carried over unintentionally by ships from Europe. The warming of the ocean has helped numbers explode in recent years, and that's proving a headache for many of the state's shellfish harvesters, since clams and oysters are a particular favorite of these critters. Green crabs are also having a devastating effect on much of the state's shoreline habitat, where they're damaging eel grass beds. Tom Porter has more.

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Green Crab Invasion Subject of Summit Listen
Hear more from Darcie Couture
Originally Aired: 12/16/2013 5:30 PM

Green crab

State officials used the summit to release full details of a one-day green crab survey carried out in August to try to get an idea of just how widespread they've become. Traps were set at nearly 30 locations up and down the Maine coast.

"Out of more than 200 traps that were set, nearly all of them caught at least some crabs - a lot of them had more than 100 crabs per trap in them," says Darcie Couture, a former scientist at Maine's Department of Marine Resources who is now working as a consultant carrying out research into the green crab problem.

State officials acknowledge that the survey was not a highly scientific one. For example, the samples were trapped using different methods. But Couture says there is an unavoidable conclusion to be drawn.

"The real big picture that came out of it was that green crabs are, in fact, a statewide issue," she says. "That's definitive now, there's no question about that. And it really brought the idea that green crabs are here in Maine causing a lot of problems to the forefront."

Couture says this study is being viewed as a starting point. The biggest challenge now facing researchers is finding a use for these crabs.

"Removal efforts, like trapping and fencing and some of the other stuff that's being done, are expensive to carry out and there's really no way to fund those things other than maybe some small initial grant money, or some money from the towns, but that's certainly not going to last very long," Couture says. "So everyone agrees that the key component to keeping green crab removal efforts underway is going to be to find a market for them."

She says a number of potential uses for green crab were discussed at the summit, including "using them as bait in the lobster fishery, which the Canadians have managed to do fairly successfully. Some of the other main uses would be as supplements to aquaculture feed, or nutritional supplements, which is work that's underway at a couple of different university groups."

Green crabs are also a potential food source for humans. The only drawback is that, while the meat is tasty enough, there's not much of it.

"Those are some of the things that they're looking at," Couture says. "If any combination of those things were able to come through it would be a real boon for creating an economic driver to keep the green crab removal efforts going."

Scientist Darcie Couture.. And you can hear more about the possible commercial uses of green crabs at

Learn more about the green crab problem from Darcie Couture. 

Learn more about the green crab summit. 


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