First it was murder hornets. Later, it was African clawed frogs. And don’t forget the Japanese beetles.

Now it seems Washington state has another invasive species problem — a European green crab was captured this week in Hood Canal, the farthest south the species has been found in the Salish Sea.

Volunteers with Washington Sea Grant trapped the male European green crab in Nick’s Lagoon near Seabeck in Kitsap County, the group reported. The organization has been tasked by the state with early detection of the crab’s spread.

The crab was captured in Hood Canal, the farthest south the species has been found in the Salish Sea, Washington Sea Grant said.

Washington Sea Grant

Washington Sea Grant marine ecologist Emily Grason said in a news release the crab arrived at the lagoon last year, based on its size.  

“This group of steadfast volunteers has never missed a month in the mud, and they are literally our eyes in areas managers don’t always have the capacity to monitor regularly,” Grason said.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in response will increase trapping there to assess the scope of the green crab presence and try to locally eradicate the species.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation in January to address a significant increase in European green crab populations within the Lummi Nation’s sea pond near Bellingham.

The crab is highly adaptable and preys on juvenile clams before they reach harvestable age, out-competes native crab species, and wreaks havoc on marine and estuary ecosystems. The Latin name for the crab — Carcinus maenas — translates as “raving mad crab.” 

“An able colonizer and efficient predator, this small shore crab has the potential to significantly alter any ecosystem it invades,” Washington Sea Grant says. “It has been blamed for the collapse of the soft-shell clam industry in Maine.”

It was first found in Washington’s inland waters in 2016.

Allen Pleus, the Aquatic Invasive Species policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the agency is taking multiple steps “to control these invasive crabs and prevent them from harming environmental, economic, and cultural resources.”

European shore crab / green crab (Carcinus maenas), alien invasive species at low tide
European green crab (Carcinus maenas) is pictured at low tide, August 08, 2009.

Photo by: Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Fish and Wildlife instructs anyone who finds a suspected European green crab or shell to take a picture and report it online or by calling WDFW’s Aquatic Invasive Species staff.

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