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March 6, 2014

Battle plans for green crab

Tarr, stakeholders see growing threat to shellfish

The invasive green crab — and how to stop its devastation of the state’s shellfish industry — is drawing new calls to arms among the industry’s stakeholders and others.

And while a Monday night forum organized by state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, state Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, Rowley Shellfish Constable John “Jack” Grundstrom and the state Division of Marine Fisheries at the DMF’s Gloucester office on Emerson Avenue didn’t bring firm solutions, stakeholders seemed to achieve one consensus.

“The one thing we all agree on is that they are a threat that have to be confronted,” Tarr said Wednesday.

According to a report by Alyssa Novack of the University of New Hampshire and Peter Phippen of the Massachusetts Bays Program, the invasive species arrived in New England in the 1800s in the ballast waters of ships.

“The green crab’s ability to tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions makes it a consummate invader and a threat to ecosystems as it can displace natives through competition and predation,” the report reads. “A recent explosion of the Green Crab population in Nova Scotia and Maine due to warmer waters has led to the rapid decline of soft-shell clams and eelgrass populations and there is now growing concern that this invasive species poses a significant threat to the coastal economy of Massachusetts.”

Many acknowledge that the green crab’s numbers have ebbed and flowed throughout the years and warmer winters mean more crabs — some have suggested that the cold kills them outright.

But Gloucester Shellfish Constable Dave Sargent added that colder winters could mean green crabs suffer less from predation as well.

When clams spawn naturally every year, he said, they lie just beneath the surface of the sand, making them easy targets for the crabs.

“They can just mow though them as if they were Rice Krispies,” Sargent said. “It impacts the lack of sustainable recruitment.”

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