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Fishermen, researchers to trap invasive green crabs in Maine

"We saw places last year where almost all the juvenile clams were eaten," said Joe Porada.
By Brooks Hays   |   Aug. 14, 2014 at 11:25 PM   |   Comments

BANGOR, Maine, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- There's a new out-of-towner invading the coastal waters of Maine, and fishermen and conservationists are worried. Green crabs moved into Maine waters more than a century ago after arriving on the East Coast in the ballast water of ships from Europe, but their numbers have been growing in recent years. Scientists say warming ocean water has allowed them to move farther and farther north, multiplying along the way.

Now, fishermen, conservationists and researchers in Downeast Maine are mobilizing to deal with the crabs. They're hoping to find an effective way to trap the crustacean in Frenchman Bay and slowly defeat the invader. Using a $6,000 grant from Maine Community Foundation, the Frenchman Bay Regional Shellfish Committee has begun placing different types of crab traps in Frenchman Bay, north of Acadia National Park.

The small dirty green crabs are a serious threat to Maine's softshell clamming industry, which brings in more than $16 million annually. They're also damaging coastal ecosystems. The crabs have decimated clam fisheries and destroyed eel grass along the way. Eelgrass offers shelter for smaller fish, serving a vital role in maintaining mature fisheries. It also helps stabilize coastal sediment and keeps the water clean.

Joe Porada, a shellfish harvester and chairman of the committee, says though things are worrisome, the crabs aren't nearly as bad as they have been the past two years. "We saw places last year where almost all the juvenile clams were eaten," he told the Bangor Daily News.

Maine's government is trying to do their part by easing regulations and making it easier to fish for the crabs. And local entrepreneurs are hoping they can find a way to turn the influx of invasive crabs into a profit.

"We need to figure out sustainable, cost-effective, long-term solutions to manage this issue so that they don't have a huge impact on marine life," Kohl Kanwit, director of the public health bureau for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, recently told the Portland Press Herald. "The solutions have to be sustainable over the long haul."

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