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Invasive European Green Crabs
The Crab Team is a project under the umbrella of the Washington Sea Grant (WSG) and several partner organizations, including the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW). The project was undertaken to detect and monitor one of the world’s most invasive species, the European Green Crab, which has recently been detected in Washington’s inland waters, including in and around Island County. This project was launched in 2015 and is currently led by Dr. Emily Grason and her team at the University of Washington. The ultimate goals of the program are to:
- Detect European green crab at the earliest possible stage of invasion to increase the ability to control population and reduce green crab impacts.
- Build a long-term dataset on green crab and other mobile organisms living in soft sediment habitats to improve the understanding of Washington’s pocket estuaries and salt marshes and track green crab impacts.
Utilizing volunteer citizen scientists like members of Sound Water Stewards, the Crab Team can monitor on a much greater scale than would be possible otherwise. This team received the Salish Sea Science prize in 2020 from the SeaDoc Society for monitoring 50 prime green crab habitat sites around the Salish Sea with robust training protocols established by the scientists on the team and using volunteers as their “boots in the mud”. Seven of those sites are in Island County and are “staffed” heavily by volunteers of Sound Water Stewards. Through this project, Sound Waters Stewards, WSG, WDFW, and other partners offer early detection and monitor the range of this destructive species that could mean reduced diversity in our native shoreline habitat and have severe consequences on Washington State’s economy.
Although Green Crabs have been detected in many places throughout the Salish Sea, there has been only one Green Crab found in Island County. It was a live specimen trapped in June 2018 by the Lagoon Point team which includes Sound Water Stewards. In a quick response, the WSG Crab Team came to the site to deploy 114 additional traps for a more robust surveillance where they captured, thankfully, only one more green crab.
Whidbey sites monitored by Sound Water Stewards include Penn Cove, Deer Lagoon, and Lagoon Point.
Camano sites monitored for invasive green crab by Sound Water Stewards include Elger Bay, Davis Slough, and Iverson Spit Preserve (the last two in partnership with the Stillaguamish Tribe).