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Invasive green crabs in the crosshairs of Oregon wildlife officials

New Oregon regulations allow recreational crabbers to catch triple the number of invasive green crabs from the state's bays and inlets.
Credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
When green crabs try to cohabitate with red rock crab, adult green crab in the lower estuaries often get beaten up by the heartier, larger, and more aggressive native crab, such as Dungeness and red rock.

SALEM, Ore. — New state regulations now allow recreational crabbers to catch triple the number of invasive green crabs from Oregon’s bays and inlets.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission increased the bag limit of European green crab from 10 to 35 per day. It’s part of a concerted effort to eradicate these invasive crustaceans- which are known to compete with native crabs for food.

Green crabs themselves are fine to eat and some recipes even call for them. They are way smaller than Dungeness or even the red rock crab, making them harder to clean.

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Mitch Vance is a Shellfish Project Leader with the Marine Resources Program at Oregon Fish and Wildlife. He wants people to know for certain it is a European green crab they are harvesting.

“Key characteristics that really help in the identification — five spines on each side of the crab and between the eyes there are three rounded bumps," he told KLCC. "It also has a very fan shaped shell.”

Credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
The 5 spines on each side and 3 bumps in the middle are the most common and easiest identifiers.

Vance said green crabs cannot reproduce in cold temperatures, but since the ocean warming events of 2015, their numbers have dramatically increased.

Vance said the increased daily limit was also meant to give recreational crabbers a break.

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He said while folks were fishing for Dungeness when the limit was ten, if they unintentionally hauled in 11 green crabs as bycatch, they were in violation of the bag limit. And because the green crab is on the controlled species list, it was illegal to return the 11th green crab to the water. The new regulation addresses that conundrum.

Vance reminded that green crabs aren’t always green when they come out of the water. And juvenile Dungeness and native shore crabs can look a lot like green crabs in the rocky intertidal. He encourages crabbers should take a good look at a picture of green crabs before going out to harvest them.

In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee has issued an emergency order to address the green crab's exponential population growth.

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