A European green crab found at Dungeness Spit, Sequim, this month.
Allen Pleus/Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
A European green crab found at Dungeness Spit, Sequim, this month.

A new population of invasive European green crab has been found at Dungeness Spit, near Sequim, Washington, rekindling concern over the potential for damage to local marine life and shorelines.

Staff and volunteers from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge, captured a total of 13 European green crab over the past two weeks as part of the UW-based Washington Sea Grant Crab Team early detection program. These numbers indicate that the invasive crabs are more abundant at Dungeness Spit than at the two other known locations in Washington’s inland waters.

The first discovery of this globally damaging invasive crab in Washington’s Salish Sea was made by Crab Team volunteers last August on San Juan Island, followed quickly by a detection at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, near Mt. Vernon. In both cases, rapid-response trapping and removal by a joint-agency team showed that the crabs were present, but still very rare in those locations.

“This is a very different situation,” said Crab Team program coordinator Emily Grason. “In Padilla Bay, the crabs we found were too far apart to find and mate with each other, but at Dungeness Spit, multiple crabs are being found at the same site, over successive days of trapping. This indicates a situation where the population could grow very quickly, if we don’t intervene.”

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