Green crab creeps fur­ther north

The Southern Gazette - - OPINION - BY ADAM RAN­DELL TC COM­MU­NITY NEWS­PA­PERS Pho­tos cour­tesy of Brenda Hynes

Port Saun­ders fish­er­man Eu­gene Caines has been mon­i­tor­ing the green crab in­va­sion for the last few years.

The Euro­pean species was first de­tected in New­found­land back in 2007, and has had a tremen­dous im­pact on the Pla­cen­tia Bay ecosys­tem.

Be­cause of the crab’s in­va­sive and ag­gres­sive na­ture, Mr. Caines feared they would move into North­ern Penin­sula waters. Now his con­cerns are a re­al­ity and he’s got the proof in a five-gal­lon bucket.

His chil­dren started find­ing them last month around the shore.

Mr. Caines in­di­cated “There must have been a dozen small baby ones on the shore.”

A cou­ple of days later he picked up more along the shore.

“It’s a dev­as­tat­ing species to find in the area. They eat up all the eel­grass that other shell­fish lives in. I was told it was too cold for them to sur­vive up this way, but they’re here.”

The lob­ster fish­er­man wants them gone.

“From what I hear about the dev­as­ta­tion that can hap­pen, they’ll take over the whole area. It would be nice to get a pro­gram on the go, or hire a cou­ple of fellers to see if they can cut back on their mul­ti­pli­ca­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to Cyn­thia McKen­zie, a re­search sci­en­tist with the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans in St. John’s, Port Saun­ders is the far­thest north the species has been re­ported in New­found­land.

The last re­port was from Par­son’s Pond. In July, sur­vey­ing was con­ducted in the Bay of Is­lands area.

Ms. McKen­zie said “We ac­tu­ally went to Port Saun­ders and put (traps) off the pub­lic wharf.

“We could go out there for a pe­riod of time, look around and do sur­veys, but it’s the peo­ple who are ac­tu­ally liv­ing there who are go­ing to see it. The peo­ple be­ing aware is great be­cause they let us know.”

She is now in the process of work­ing with Mr. Caines to ob­tain a li­cence to trap green crab be­fore the species can get a foothold in the area.

Ms. McKen­zie ex­plained study­ing green crab around the prov­ince has pro­duced in­ter­est­ing re­sults.

She said a grad stu­dent is study­ing the life cy­cle of the species, and she thinks be­cause of the colder cli­mate they are re­pro­duc­ing ear­lier, with the fe­male crab ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing 165,000 lar­vae dur­ing its five- to six-year life span.

The cold-wa­ter species is also highly re­silient. Ac­cord­ing to Ms. McKen­zie, green crab can sur­vive in the freezer for more than 24 hours, can sur­vive out of the wa­ter for long pe­ri­ods and can sur­vive in fresh wa­ter.

“They’ll eat any­thing. They’ll re­pro­duce ear­lier, we think. They re­lease a lot of lar­vae, so it’s tough to beat it back.”

When it comes to tak­ing over an area, Ms. McKen­zie said New­found­land stud­ies have pro­duced vary­ing re­sults.

“In Pla­cen­tia Bay, we went from first de­tect­ing it in 2007, in a cou­ple of (north­ern) ar­eas, and by 2013, they are down to La­ma­line.

“They sort of es­tab­lish and re­pro­duce and they don’t have the preda­tors that will keep them in check. They are dis­plac­ing the na­tive rock crab, so any­thing eat­ing the rock crab suf­fers.

“We have not found any in­di­ca­tion the birds have fig­ured out it’s some­thing they should be eat­ing. From 2007 to 2013 the num­bers have just gone to more than we can pos­si­bly count.”

On the west coast, study­ing green crab in the Port Har­mon and Bay St. Ge­orge area from 2009 to 2011, counts would be five to 100, whereas in the same two-year pe­riod the num­bers in Pla­cen­tia Bay would go from five to 200-300 a day.

Ms. McKen­zie said the shal­lowwa­ter species came across from Europe in the bilge tanks of ocean­go­ing ves­sels.

Be­cause of the in­va­sive na­ture of the species, she said there has been a lot of con­cern among fish­er­men, mainly be­cause they de­stroy eel­grass in search of food. Eel­grass is eco­log­i­cally im­por­tant in the area for all species of ju­ve­nile fish, in­clud­ing cod.

“We are work­ing on the paper now that shows, in ar­eas where there are green crab, that the eel­grass is al­most com­pletely gone.”

Also, fish­er­men are re­port­ing green crab in their fish­ing gear and eat­ing the eels.

Ms. McKen­zie said Pla­cen­tia Bay fish­er­men have even re­ported them eat­ing lob­ster and bait. She said she thinks the species is be­ing spread around the prov­ince via fish­ing gear.

She noted one thing DFO dis­cov­ered on the west coast and in Pla­cen­tia Bay was the move­ment was not a grad­ual one up the coast and there ap­pears to be a point-to­point move­ment.

“So that tells me that it’s re­ally likely they are get­ting into peo­ple’s gear.”

Now that green crab have been dis­cov­ered in Port Saun­ders, Ms. McKen­zie strongly rec­om­mended fish­er­men take a proac­tive ap­proach and take care of their own back­yard.

“It could just spread (if left unchecked). Peo­ple need to be aware and check on it, take the ac­tion to pro­tect their own liveli­hood.

“We don’t have the re­sources to go out and me­di­ate green crab wher­ever we find them.”

Be­cause of this, lob­ster and eel fish­er­men are el­i­gi­ble for green crab li­cences.

She in­di­cated “They are in­shore species, it’s not some­thing you have to go out and spend a lot of money to clean up.

“You put the bait out, they come to you, and you can get rid of them.”

If a li­cence can’t be ob­tained, Ms. McKen­zie strongly rec­om­mended fish­er­men dry and check their gear be­fore use.

“Once they are in the wa­ter sys­tem, you’ll never get rid of them, but you can beat them back.”

St. An­thony North­ern Pen

Port Saun­ders fish­er­man Eugene Caines holds up a green crab (left) and na­tive rock crab. Mr. Caines dis­cov­ered the species near his wharf last month.

Green crab has been dis­cov­ered in Port Saun­ders and area fish­er­men want them gone.

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