July/August European green crab updates

The following highlights are excerpted from our July/August European Green Crab Public Update.

European Green Crab Incident Command objectives continue to include reduction of EGC populations to below levels harmful to environmental, economic, or cultural resources.

More information is available on our European green crab species webpage. The public is asked to report suspected sightings at wdfw.wa.gov/greencrab.

This report summarizes EGC captures, monitoring, and other emergency measures from July and August 2023 as well as a field highlight and general updates.

2023 European Green Crab Capture/Removal Totals

*as of August 9

Total 137,700

Coastal Management Branch EGC removal totals: 132,957
Salish Sea Management Branch EGC removal totals: 4,743

Please see the new European Green Crab Hub for more detailed capture data including by management area: wdfw-egc-hub-wdfw.hub.arcgis.com.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) staff checking traps for European green crabs (EGC) on a field visit in Seabeck, Washington, on Aug. 1, 2023. Photo by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Field Highlight: EGC detections continue in Hood Canal, WDFW and partners deploy rapid response

WDFW Aquatic Invasive Species Unit EGC field teams in coordination with Washington Sea Grant (WSG) continue to detect and remove small numbers of EGC at sites in the northern Hood Canal, Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, and North Puget Sound Management Areas. Heavy trapping continues in these areas in coordination with co-managers, tribes, and partners to assess population size and scope of EGC, including near WDFW tidelands off Linger Longer Road at Quilcene Bay in Hood Canal.

EGC were first detected in the Hood Canal Management Area in May 2022 by volunteers with WSG’s Crab Team at Nick’s Lagoon near Seabeck in Kitsap County. Since, EGC continue to be found at this and nearby sites. WSG and WDFW continue to monitor sites throughout the Hood Canal for additional detections in this Management Area.

“We have two main goals for managing EGC in the Hood Canal,” said Chelsey Buffington, WDFW EGC Project Lead. “The first is to understand the distribution and abundance of EGC. The second is to increase co-manager, tribe, and partner involvement to allow for more early detection, assessments, and control actions.”

WDFW recognizes that more trapping is needed in the southern parts of Hood Canal to assess EGC distribution, and that this can only effectively be accomplished with the help of co-managers, tribes, and partners.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) attorneys, communications staff, and interns visited Nick’s Lagoon in early August to discuss federal permitting, co-manager/tribe/partner involvement, and trapping placements within various habitats.

WDFW and NOAA staff after a day trapping and monitoring invasive European green crabs at Seabeck, Hood Canal. Photo by NOAA.

Science Highlight: Recent research suggests connection between growing EGC populations and rising water temperatures

Beginning around 2018, state and federal agencies, tribes, and partners noticed significant increases in EGC populations in some of Washington’s coastal bays. It has been hypothesized that this increase may have been spurred by rising water temperatures in nearshore marine areas.

Recent research by Dr. Dave Carlon’s lab at Bowdoin College’s Schiller Coastal Studies Center suggests a link between increasing water temperatures and growing EGC populations in Maine. For the past 10 years, the Carlon Lab has been studying European green crab populations in the waters of Harpswell, Maine, with the goal of better understanding the drivers of EGC population growth.

Though this area of science is still evolving, initial analysis of data collected by the Carlon Lab indicates that there is a connection between rising water temperatures and increasing European green crab populations in Maine.

According to Dr. Carlon, rising water temperatures are “a prime suspect” in the growth of the green crab populations. In other words, water temperatures continue to rise, it would not be surprising if green crab populations also rise.

“While I agree that if the water continues to warm off the coast of Maine, it is likely that we will see more EGC there,” said Dr. Brian Turner, WDFW Aquatic Invasive Species Research Scientist, “the driving mechanisms for this population growth may be unique to their situation and environment.”

“We could see a similar relationship between rising water temperatures and increasing EGC populations in Washington,” continued Dr. Turner. “The only way we could ever be able to tell is with long term monitoring.”

To manage EGC effectively, WDFW recognizes a need for this long-term data. Washington Sea Grant has been running a monitoring network for EGC called “Crab Team,” which provides long-term data for some sites. WDFW, in coordination with co-managers, tribes, and partners, is exploring additional opportunities for long term monitoring of EGC.

The EGC Research Task Force (RTF) is an organization of researchers, managers, and experts on EGC from across the Pacific coast of North America. The RTF provides a forum to discuss the current state of EGC research and promote synergy in research efforts. Additionally, the RTF aims to develop a ranked list of needed EGC research with a primary focus on improving the prevention, detection, and management of EGC. The RTF is informing management efforts in WA by developing technical thresholds for EGC impact, including a threshold at which EGC populations no longer harm environmental, economic, or cultural resources. For more information, contact Dr. Turner at ais@wdfw.wa.gov.

Large male European green crab captured in Willapa Bay near Tokeland. Photo by Washington Sea Grant.

General Updates

Q4 Report to the Washington State Legislature
The fourth EGC Quarterly Report (Q4) to the State Legislature was submitted on September 1. In response to the legislative budget proviso directive in ESSB 5693 (2022), this report has been authored as the fourth in a series of ongoing quarterly progress reports.

The Q4 report outlines the successes and challenges of ongoing EGC emergency response efforts in Washington state from April 1 to June 30, 2023. In addition, this report will put the work during Q4 in the context of the work completed in 2022 and early 2023 (reports for Quarter 1–3 are available on our EGC species webpage).

European Green Crab Multi-Agency Coordination Group
The European Green Crab (EGC) Multi-Agency Coordination Group (MAC Group) met twice in July and twice in August. At these meetings, MAC Group members discussed the latest research on EGC as well as ongoing emergency measures, management, and funding.

On July 12, the Fiscal Year 2024 Strategic Action Plan was provided to group members, and the key objectives and associated tasks were discussed. On July 26, Dr. Brian Turner provided a brief European Green Crab Management Plan update; work on the five-year plan has begun and will address actions in each Management Area.

Field operations

This section is meant to highlight the hard work of dozens of co-managers, tribes, and partners working to manage and control EGC populations in Washington waters. The efforts described do not capture all the work done or all entities involved in EGC trapping and management.

For more information about the co-managers, tribes, and partners currently involved in EGC trapping or management, please visit the European Green Crab Hub.

Washington Coast
On Washington’s Pacific coast, co-managers, tribes, and partners continue trapping to control and monitor EGC populations. In July alone, more than 34,000 EGC were caught.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Grays Harbor Conservation District (GHCD) worked together to catch over 1,100 EGC on the southern end of Grays Harbor in July. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) trapped at Leadbetter Point in Willapa Bay assisted WDFW.

Nearby, WSG led one day of a research trapping effort in Nahcotta in collaboration with the University of Washington to evaluate predation impacts on juvenile and seed clams (Manila clams). On the northmost part of the Washington coast, the Makah Tribe continues to trap for EGC and research interactions between EGC and other species.

Salish Sea
Co-managers and partners operating in the Salish Sea in July and August were also very productive. They caught more than 600 EGC, most of which were in the North Sound. No EGC were detected in the Puget Sound south of the Hood Canal.

The Lummi Natural Resources Department conducted a trapping blitz with over 100 traps in July 2023. The Northwest Straits Commission (NWSC) trained a Washington Conservation Corps crew on EGC trapping, and USFWS continues to trap at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.

Raising green crab awareness aboard Washington State Ferries

In July, EGC rack cards were distributed to all Washington State Ferries by WDFW’s EGC Outreach Specialist. The rack cards will be available to riders to take for the next year. WDFW also placed information advertisement posters about EGC on all northern ferry routes. The advertisements will run for 4–8 weeks in August and September 2023.

The poster placed on Washington State Ferries is freely available for outreach purposes. Download it here or request copies by emailing ais@dfw.wa.gov.

EGC advertisements and rack cards on Washington State Ferries.

Community engagement at the Columbia-Pacific Farmers Market

On Friday, Aug. 11, WDFW staff from a variety of work units tabled at the Columbia-Pacific Farmers Market in Long Beach, Washington. Jessica Ostfeld, European Green Crab Outreach Specialist, and Hannah Robinson, Aquatic Invasive Species Scientific Technician, provided information about European green crabs and the management actions WDFW, co-managers, tribes, and partners are taking to control this invasive species. Timothy Zepplin, Coastal Recreational Crab Biologist, provided information about recreational crabbing and general shellfish harvesting. Staff utilized multiple outreach tools to engage over 160 members of the public, including a crab molt identification game designed to improve European green crab identification, and a spinning wheel game about Washington’s shellfish resources.

WDFW Shellfish unit and Communications and Public Engagement staff tabling about European green crabs and other coastal issues at the Columbia-Pacific Farmers Market near Long Beach.

Communications, outreach, and community events

Throughout July and August, WDFW, co-managers, tribes, and partners have engaged in numerous outreach events and actions. In total, more than 1,300 members of the public were reached at these events. The Public Information Officer fielded sporadic media requests for EGC information.

In July, NWSC partnered with Skagit MRC volunteers to send a landowner letter describing green crab trapping efforts and tips on how to help to over 500 shoreline landowners in Skagit County. Letters included handouts and stickers created by WDFW. Nine organizations signed on to the letter (Skagit MRC, NWSC, PBNERR, Taylor Shellfish, Samish Indian Nation, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, WDFW, WSG, and DNR).

Volunteers with Molt Search, a new community science project by Washington Sea Grant’s Crab Team and Washington State University Extension, were active throughout July and August. Washington Sea Grant received and verified 48 Molt Search reports from 26 community members within the Salish Sea. None of the molts found were EGC. A big thank you to the volunteers helping with this project!

Washington Sea Grant and WDFW collaborated on a couple events this summer. On Aug. 7, Lisa Watkins (Community Science Specialist for WSG) and Jessica Ostfeld (WDFW EGC Outreach Specialist) collaborated on a workshop for the Seattle Aquarium’s summer camp for youth aged 13–14. WSG and WSU extension, with support from WDFW, put on a virtual Molt Search training on Aug. 23.

GHCD has had a booth every Sunday at the Aberdeen Sunday Market with EGC outreach materials. WDFW staff have completed at least ten outreach events throughout July and August, including the Birch Bay Sand Sculpture Competition, Duwamish River Festival, and State Parks Outdoor Discovery Day. WDFW EGC Project Lead, Chelsey Buffington, presented on the new EGC Hub communication platform at the ESRI User Conference on July 11.

Regarding outreach materials, WDFW staff created two new games to be used when doing outreach about EGC. The first is a spinning wheel game where players spin a wheel, and then answer the question about EGC that they land on. The second is an EGC identification game where players are given a box of crab molts and they are asked to identify which comes from an EGC.

Visit the Resources section of our webpage to download European green crab outreach and identification materials including signs, fliers, and graphics.

Please see the full EGC Public Update for additional photo highlights.

Washington DNR staff pulling pots deployed for European green crab on the Palix River estuary in Willapa Bay. Photo by DNR.
Shrimp pot full of European green crabs that was retrieved from Elk River Natural Area Preserve in Grays Harbor near Westport by Washington DNR staff. Photo by DNR.

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, returning the crab in question unharmed to the water where it was found. Most of these native crabs, including Graceful, Kelp, 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 the EGC Hub (as well as the EGC reporting form) and WDFW’s webpage, as well as at www.wdfw.wa.gov/greencrab.

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.

Summary Statement for Background

On January 19, 2022, Washington State Governor Inslee issued Emergency Proclamation 22–02 which ordered the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) “to begin implementation of emergency measures as necessary to effect the eradication of or to prevent the permanent establishment and expansion of European green crab.” This is a statewide proclamation for all marine and estuarine waters of the state that to be effective, will require coordination across state, tribal, and federal jurisdictions. To address this large and complex task, WDFW has implemented an Incident Command System (ICS) structure to facilitate a statewide European green crab (EGC) management strategy. The state Emergency Management Division has assigned this as Mission #22–1085. Since this is a relatively slower-moving emergency (as compared to earthquake or wildfire response), the ICS structure will be used as the overall framework for WDFW communications and coordination. WDFW’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) unit anticipates deploying more than 25 staff and 1,000 traps during the 2023 field season, along with other equipment and resources.

More information is available on our European green crab species webpage. The public is asked to report suspected sightings at wdfw.wa.gov/greencrab.

Crews with Northwest Straits Commission and Washington Conservation Corps trapping for European green crabs near Colony Creek in Samish Bay south of Bellingham. Photo by NW Straits Commission.



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