Nov/Dec European green crab updates

More than 269,000 invasive green crabs have been removed from Washington waters in 2022. Read on for updates about the state’s Coastal Management Grant Program which supports shellfish growers and other partners, as well as live European green crabs recently confiscated from a Seattle seafood market.

The following highlights are excerpted from our November/December 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

A live invasive European green crab confiscated from a seafood market in Seattle on December 12, 2022. The crabs were destroyed by WDFW Police officers. Read on or scroll down for details.

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

Many shore-based EGC trapping efforts are ending for the season or being significantly reduced for safety reasons due to shortened daylight hours, difficulty in tidal timing, and hazardous intertidal and weather conditions. WDFW seasonal technical staff have also finished their seasonal positions, so WDFW is shifting to developing and testing boat-based trapping opportunities to support year-round trapping needs. Read on for additional updates and highlights.

Total 269,579 as of November 30

Coastal Management Branch EGC removal totals:
Year to date 188,901

Salish Sea Management Branch EGC removal totals:
Year to date 80,678

Washington’s European Green Crab Management Areas, which are modeled after WDFW’s Marine Areas.

10-Day Emergency Measures Status Update to the Governor (December 29, 2022): Per RCW 77.135.090, the WDFW Director continues to evaluate the effects of the European Green Crab emergency measures as provided under Proclamation 22–02, finds that the emergency continues to persist, and advises that all emergency measures should be continued.

Washington state coastal stakeholders have been working to control the spread of invasive European green crabs (EGC) since at least 2020. Until this year, there was very little financial support available.

Recognizing the importance of their work, in 2022 the Washington State Legislature appropriated $675,000 to be distributed by WDFW to coastal partners working on EGC control through the Coastal Management Grant Program — European Green Crab. The grant program is part of the state’s EGC emergency measures funding. So far, funding has been distributed to the Pacific Conservation District, Grays Harbor Conservation District, and the Pacific Shellfish Institute.

The Pacific Conservation District has distributed much of their grant funding for EGC trapping to Pacific County Vegetation Management and local shellfish growers. Shellfish growers trapping for green crabs include Willapa-Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association, which represents shellfish growers in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, and Willapa Bay Oyster. Between April and November 2022 these groups caught more than 140,000 EGC. This is at least 69% of all EGC caught in that area during that time.

“The shellfish farmers have long been at the forefront of environmental issues including Spartina, Zostera japonica, burrowing shrimp, and now European green crab,” said David Beugli, Executive Director of Willapa-Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association. “We understand that protecting the bays and preserving a healthy ecosystem is vital to our farms’ survival. The removal of European green crabs is a continuation of this environmental stewardship, and we will not stop until they are eradicated.”

Many of the grant-funded groups are working with other partners on the coast to maximize efforts at EGC removal. These partners include the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe, WDFW, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Total efforts have led to removal of more than 180,000 EGC from Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay this year.

The other two grantees are gearing up for 2023. Grays Harbor Conservation District is building capacity and adding partners for a larger trapping effort in Grays Harbor. Meanwhile, the Pacific Shellfish Institute will be starting a study in January on how EGC can impact shellfish in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. The findings of the study will help inform best management practices going forward.

All $675,000 will be allocated to coastal partners for the 2023 Fiscal Year, which runs through June 2023. WDFW has requested additional funding for Fiscal Years 2024 and 2025 and anticipates at least $500,000 per year to be allocated to the EGC Coastal Management Grant Program. Shellfish aquaculture businesses, county or city governments, tribes, nonprofit groups, and other local entities are eligible to receive funding through this program for EGC trapping and control. Contact ais@dfw.wa.gov to learn more.

In early December WDFW Police received information that a Seattle market was selling live “green crabs”. Fish and Wildlife Officers Trent Weidert and Nick Libbing went to investigate.

It was determined that the retail market had bought approximately 30 pounds of live green crabs from a distributer in Massachusetts with the intent of selling them for use in crab stock and soup. Marketed only as “green crabs”, the seller did not appear to know that they were in fact European green crabs (EGC) regulated by Washington state as a prohibited invasive species.

The seller was very cooperative with Officer Libbing and the crabs were confiscated and destroyed. WDFW Police and Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) unit staff are working to increase outreach to local seafood sellers and shippers regarding the state’s invasive species regulations, how they can find out which species are Prohibited, and what they need to do for sale under WAC 220–640–051.

Further investigation into the Massachusetts seafood distributer continues, including contact with Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game wardens about possible ramifications for interstate trafficking of live invasive species, and whether they were sold to other Pacific Northwest states or provinces.

Under the state’s ongoing emergency order, Washington’s EGC Incident Command objectives include reduction of green crab populations to levels which are not harmful to environmental, economic, or cultural resources. At this time commercial or recreational markets for European green crabs would be detrimental to these objectives.

Invasive species sold for food or fishing bait are sometimes released (intentionally or unintentionally) and are known to be among the causes of their spread in other states and regions. In Washington, European green crabs are not currently found within central or south Puget Sound and should not be introduced anywhere in the state.

European green crabs are classified as a Prohibited Level 1 Invasive Species in Washington, meaning they may not be possessed, introduced on or into a water body or property, or trafficked (transported, bought or sold), without WDFW authorization.

This event is an important reminder of the regulations around European green crab and the responsibility of seafood sellers, buyers and shippers to avoid potentially spreading them.

Thank you and great job, WDFW Police, especially Officers Weidert and Libbing for their work on this case!

European Green Crab Quarterly Progress Report — Fall 2022
The European Green Crab Quarterly Progress Report — Fall 2022 was published and submitted to the Washington State Legislature on Dec. 1. View it at: wdfw.wa.gov/publications/02355

European Green Crab Management Update (one-pager)
A new one-page factsheet providing a summary of European green crab management was provided to the Office of Governor Jay Inslee on Dec. 13. View it at: https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2022-12/egcupdate121322.pdf

Fiscal Year 2023–2025 Biennium Budget (July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024)
WDFW EGC funding received from the legislature in this biennium is ongoing for the 2023–2025 biennium. At this time, WDFW is not seeking additional legislative EGC funding, and the assumption is status quo distribution of funds as issued for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, but WDFW will assess options for adjusting dispersal based on availability of alternative funding sources and any changes to EGC emergency management priority and resource needs. Starting in January 2023, WDFW will solicit budget/funding feedback from tribal co-managers and through entity representatives of the EGC Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group.

A large European green crab hiding among commerical oyster grower bags in Willapa Bay.

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.