The European green crab (Carcinus maenas) is a harmful invasive species that has been linked to the decline of the soft-shell clam industry in New England, as well as the degradation and loss of critical eelgrass and salt marsh habitat. Compounding these issues is the link between increasing green crab abundance and increasing ocean temperature, which has had severe ecological and socio-economic consequences in areas such as the GOM, where warming is occurring faster than 99% of the world’s oceans.
WHAT WE DO
As climate change continues to alter the abundance and distribution of invasive species, new strategies will need to be developed to mitigate the resulting ecological and socioeconomic impacts. Manomet’s soft-shell green crab project aims to create a mechanism for controlling green crab populations while also creating a value-added product and a source of economic opportunity for fishers. Utilizing an invasive species to diversify fisheries resources may ultimately enhance the future resiliency of New England’s coastal communities, and could serve as a unique example of how to mitigate the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of climate-driven change.
HOW WE DO IT
Developing a lucrative green crab fishery may be a viable way to control population abundance and derive value from this invasive species. Manomet has partnered with local fishers to investigate the viability of a soft-shell green crab fishery in New England. We are using techniques adapted from the Venetian soft-shell crab fishery, which targets a closely related species, the native Mediterranean green crab (Carcinus aestuarii). With the help of a Venetian crab fisher, who both visited our research sites in Maine and also hosted several team members in Venice, we have successfully learned to identify pre-molt green crabs and produce soft-shell (i.e., newly molted) product. During restaurant trials in 2017, chefs and consumers responded positively, comparing the flavor and quality of the product to soft-shell blue crabs. As a featured menu item, soft-shell green crabs were priced at roughly $40/lb, and sold out immediately (Fig. 1). Ongoing research aims to increase production as well as determine the economic viability of this fishery.
Figure 1. Deep-fried soft-shell green crabs served at Enoteca Athena in Brunswick, ME. Photo courtesy of chef/owner Tim O’Brien.