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Green crabs are exploding in numbers, disrupting New England ecosystems


Along much of the New England coastline there is a problem that has been brewing for about 200 years. Green crabs are slowly invading coastal ecosystems. They are not hard to find. “They like to eat a lot and breed a lot and take over the whole habitat…here’s another one,” as University of New Hampshire fisheries scientist Dr. Gabriela Bradt hands over a rock to reveal a another green crab to add to his bucket. “They cause a lot of damage. We call them ‘ecosystem engineers’ because they like to dig and cut eelgrass, and they like to eat a lot of shellfish too much,” Bradt said. These invasive crabs have arrived in Nova Scotia. England in the early 1800s, hitchhiking in the ballast water of ships coming from Europe. It wasn’t until the 1960s, according to Bradt, that people started noticing a potential problem. “There there were warnings. They say, “You have to keep an eye out for these things because if there are changes in the weather – if it gets warmer and you don’t have the kind of longer winters and brutal New Englanders – you’re not going to be able to keep these populations under control. “I would say that over the past 10, 15 years, (the green crab population has) increased. Because that’s how long the temperatures have been climbing,” Bradt said. Climate change has created the perfect conditions for green crabs to thrive. If left unchecked, they could have a significant impact on marsh and coastal ecosystems. But there are creative ways to control their numbers, and we could all be part of the solution. “I think we really love our seafood. And if you can get over the fact that it’s an invasive (species), ‘invasive’ doesn’t mean it’s inedible,” Bradt said. “I like to compare it (to) rabbit and chicken, green crabs being the rabbit. They are a bit sweeter, gamer, a bit more “oceanic”, whereas the normal crabs we eat here, like Jonas crab or rock crab, have a sweeter, milder flavor. creatures can be used in many ways. “(Green crabs can be used for) a really good bio-compost or broth or new seafood product. Maybe if the policy changes, it could become like a peach,” Bradt said. The change climate helping these green crabs increase in numbers, it’s up to people to find more ways to harvest and use them to control their numbers.” If nothing is done, you may not have any more clams or very little,” Bradt. “For New England, at least, the loss of shellfish and other types of seafood would be truly horrific.

Along much of the New England coastline there is a problem that has been brewing for about 200 years. Green crabs are slowly invading coastal ecosystems. They are not hard to find.

“They like to eat a lot and breed a lot and take over all the habitat…here’s another one,” as University of New Hampshire fisheries expert Dr. Gabriela Bradt flips a rock to reveal another green crab to add. to his bucket.

“They cause a lot of damage. We call them ‘ecosystem engineers,’ because they like to dig and prune seagrass, and they like to eat a lot of shellfish too much,” Bradt said.

These invasive crabs arrived in New England in the early 1800s, hitching a ride in the ballast water of ships coming from Europe. It wasn’t until the 1960s, according to Bradt, that people started noticing a potential problem.

“There were warnings. They say, “You have to keep an eye on these things because if there are changes in the weather – if it gets warmer and you don’t have the kind of longer, brutal winters in New -England – you are not going to be able to keep these populations under control.

“I would say that over the past 10, 15 years, (the green crab population has) increased. Because that’s how long the temperatures have been climbing,” Bradt said.

Climate change has created the perfect conditions for green crabs to thrive. If left unchecked, they could have a significant impact on marsh and coastal ecosystems. But there are creative ways to control their numbers, and we could all be part of the solution.

“I think we really love our seafood. And if you can get over the fact that it’s an invasive (species), ‘invasive’ doesn’t mean it’s inedible,” Bradt said.

“I like to compare it to rabbit and chicken, green crabs being the rabbit. They’re a little sweeter, more boyish, a little more ‘oceanic’, whereas the normal crabs we eat here, like the Jonas crab or rock crab, have a milder, milder flavor.”

These little critters can be used in many ways.

“(Green crabs can be used for) a really good bio-compost or broth or new seafood product. Maybe if the policy changes it could become like a fishery,” Bradt said.

With climate change helping these green crabs increase in numbers, it’s up to people to find more ways to harvest them and use them to control their numbers.

“If nothing is done, you may have no clams or very few,” Bradt. “For New England, at least, the loss of shellfish and other types of seafood would be truly horrific.”

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