European green crab updates from the Makah Tribe and Northwest Straits Commission

The following highlights are excerpted from our September European Green Crab Public Update.

These regular updates are intended to inform the public, local stakeholders, news media, and others regarding the status of European green crab (EGC) management and emergency measures deployment in Washington state. They are archived on our European green crab species webpage. You can also sign up for our European Green Crab Management Updates email list. For background, please see our June news release.

To report European green crab sightings or obtain identification resources, please visit: wdfw.wa.gov/greencrab

U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer and staff from Washington Sea Grant and WDFW check traps for European green crab near Seabeck in northern Hood Canal in early September.

Field Highlight: Makah Tribe leads “Trapping Blitzes”, ongoing research at Makah Bay

As detailed in recent coverage by the Sequim Gazette, the Makah Tribe continues to be a leader in European green crab management, monitoring, and scientific research through their efforts in Makah Bay — including in the Wa’atch and Tsoo-Yess river estuaries — as well as a prospecting trap site in Neah Bay.

Utilizing emergency measures funding appropriated by the state, Makah Tribe’s Fisheries Management department have hired additional staff, including a green crab biologist and technicians, while continuing to work with volunteers.

In early August, a team from Makah Fisheries Management undertook a “trapping blitz” with support from WDFW and Washington Sea Grant, deploying a total of 786 traps and capturing more than 5,300 green crabs. An additional 9,600 EGC were removed by mid-September by Makah staff and a few dedicated volunteers.

So far in 2022, Makah staff, volunteers, and supporting groups have removed more than 19,100 EGC from Makah Bay. No European green crab have been detected at the Neah Bay prospecting site this year.

Makah staff have also been conducting mark recapture studies and taking underwater video footage to assess European green crab presence and study interactions with juvenile Dungeness crab, as well as seeking to better understand the depths and habitat where this invasive species may be found at on the Washington Coast.

The Makah Tribe’s research will help inform work to control EGC on the Makah Reservation and in other waters around the state. More information is available in this June 2022 blog post from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC): nwtreatytribes.org/makah-tribe-gets-early-hit-of-invasive-european-green-crab/.

Makah Fisheries Management have also put out more signage and articles in the local newsletter to support EGC identification and reporting by tribal members, commercial fishers, and visitors.

“I feel positive about the amount of effort we’ve had,” Adrianne Akmajian, the Makah Tribe’s Marine Ecologist told the Sequim Gazette. “The additional funding has been important to do this much effort. It appears the population is exploding. Our obvious goal is to control the population to manageable levels. I’m not sure what that is right now … but I’d like to keep up the heavy effort and see numbers decline.”

Akmajian anticipates heavy trapping through October — and possibly over the winter months, depending on weather. Additional perspectives on the Makah Tribe’s work to control EGC can be found in this June Being Frank column from NWIFC Chairman Ed Johnstone.

A European green crab removed from the Wa’atch River estuary on the north end of Makah Bay near Cape Flattery and Neah Bay on the Makah Reservation.

Partner Highlight: Northwest Straits Commission continues monitoring and removing European green crab in Whatcom and Skagit counties

The Northwest Straits Commission (NWSC) has been conducting European green crab trapping with its many partners at sites in Skagit and Whatcom counties for several years, including efforts to remove European green crab (EGC) from Drayton Harbor beginning in 2019, and more recently, monitoring and removal in Samish, Padilla and Semiahmoo Bays and Bellingham’s Squalicum Harbor.

NWSC also works with Washington Conservation Corps and Veterans Conservation Corps to support removing EGC, and to conduct targeted community outreach focused on European green crab awareness, identification, and reporting. This includes the recent Fidalgo Bay Day on August 20, where they interacted with ~150 people over the four-hour event.

In August, NWSC, Northwest Straits Foundation, and Upper Skagit Indian Tribe joined forces to set 30 traps near Larrabee State Park at Clayton Beach and neighboring Upper Skagit land. No European green crab were captured.

From August 22 through 25, NWSC helped coordinate a large European green crab trapping survey at the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve. In total, more than 700 traps were set by 23 trappers from nine organizations (NWSC, Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Puget Sound Corps, Samish Indian Nation, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Veterans Conservation Corps, WDFW, DNR, and Washington Sea Grant). Over 75 public education interactions occurred during trapping, as well as further outreach with signage and social media.

Thankfully, no European green crab were captured despite this heavy trapping effort. These and other findings are positive signs that European green crab numbers remain relatively low in Bellingham, Samish, Padilla, and Fidalgo bays.

NWSC reports partnerships with Washington Conservation Corps (WCC), Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association’s (NSEA) WCC, Veterans Conservation Corps (VCC), volunteers, and WDFW technicians have been especially important for their European green crab trapping efforts.

In Drayton Harbor, Antonio Jones, a Veterans Conservation Corps intern, returned to help NWSC with another season of European green crab trapping. Antonio has been indispensable in supporting intensive trapping effort; working hard and being a leader for volunteers and NSEA’s WCC members.

Antonio, NSEA WCC members, volunteers, and WDFW technicians have helped to set over 2,300 traps and capture 113 European green crabs in Drayton Harbor since April. Trapping efforts will continue through mid-October.

In Samish and Padilla Bays, NWSC’s trapping efforts were predominately conducted by a WCC crew, who set a couple thousand traps and removed 23 European green crabs since April. The hard working and ever-positive crew finished their last day with NWSC on August 25.

NWSC staff and partners, including WDFW, want to give the WCC and NSEA WCC members, Antonio Jones (VCC), volunteers, and WDFW technicians a big THANK YOU for their hard work!

More information is available in Northwest Straits Commission’s September e-newsletter.

Trapping for European green crab at Clayton Beach. Antonio Jones (NWSC), Brooke Friesen (NWSF), Haley Sherman (NWSF), Mike Bartlett (Upper Skagit), Larry Peterson (Upper Skagit). Photo: Allie Simpson / NWSC.

General Updates

Under mission #22–1085 as assigned by the state Emergency Management Division, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) continued the Incident Command System (ICS) for European green crab emergency measures deployment and coordination. Background information is available in this June 17 news release.

Through the ICS, European Green Crab (EGC) Multi-Agency Coordination Group (MAC Group) meetings continued, including review and discussion of a draft Fiscal Year 2023 EGC Strategic Action Plan that will guide response actions for all organizations until June 30, 2023. Once approved, next actions will include developing a Fiscal Year 2024 Strategic Action Plan and begin development of a multi-year cooperative management plan. EGC Coastal Grant Management Contracts with Pacific and Gray Harbor Conservation Districts were approved and are fully available to those entities and partners.

WDFW Aquatic Invasive Species staff and other EGC partners presented at the American Fisheries Conference in Spokane, updating attendees on EGC emergency measures deployment in Washington.

Washington Sea Grant (WSG) Crab Team and the University of Washington hosted a field trip for Congressional staffers, with a session on EGC in Ocean Shores. Congressional staffers present represented Senator Murray and U.S. Representatives Kilmer, Schrier, and Herrera Beutler. Also in attendance were Incident Commander Allen Pleus of WDFW, David Bingaman and Joe Schumacker of the Quinault Indian Nation, David Beugli of the Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association, Barbara Hayford and Bruce Ritenhouse of the Coastal Interpretative Center.

WSG led an EGC field demonstration on September 1 for U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer at Nick’s Lagoon near Seabeck on Hood Canal. Also in attendance were Incident Commander Allen Pleus of WDFW, Neil Harrington of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, WSG Crab Team volunteers Brian Gregory and Victoria Poage, and journalists from the Kitsap Sun.

A WDFW graphic showing the best way to identify European green crab: by counting the five marginal teeth or “spines” on either side of their shell.

Public Reporting and Crab Identification

WDFW continues to receive reports from the public of native crab species misidentified for invasive European green crabs. While we appreciate the public interest in helping to identify invasive species, these incidents are examples of why WDFW calls on the public to photograph and report suspected green crabs at: wdfw.wa.gov/greencrab, and then returning the crab in question unharmed to the water where it was found.

Most of these native crabs, including Graceful, Kelp, Hairy Helmet and Hairy shore crabs, are regulated as Unclassified Marine Invertebrates and are illegal to kill, harvest, retain, or possess. If verified as European green crabs, WDFW will follow up with trapping and monitoring if found in a new area.

Crab identification guides and resources are also available on that webpage, as well as a flier at: https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2022-06/European_green_crab_reporting_sign_2022.jpg

European green crabs are shore crabs and are found in shallow areas — typically less than 25 feet of water — including estuaries, mudflats, intertidal zones, and beaches. They are not likely to be caught by recreational shrimpers or crabbers operating in deeper water, but may be encountered by beachgoers, waders, clam and oyster harvesters, or those crabbing off docks or piers in shallow areas.

Please see our September European Green Crab Public Update for additional updates, news and photos from the field.

Staffers for Washington Members of Congress receive a briefing on European green crab management and identification from Washington Sea Grant and WDFW staff in Ocean Shores.

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

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