CHEERS to Seaside Sustainability of Gloucester and Cell Signaling Technology of Danvers who put together a project to study an invasive species that is endangering what draws tourists to Cape Ann: clams and salt marsh views.
Cell Signaling has made awards up to $8,000 each to area environmental nonprofits for projects and initiatives. Seaside Sustainability of Gloucester is using its money to check traps and harvest green crabs from the Little River where it meets the Annisquam River in Gloucester.
The insidious green crabs, invaders from Europe, create havoc in ecosystems such as the Great Salt Marsh, which extends from Gloucester along the northern Massachusetts coast and into New Hampshire.
Officially a scourge, the crabs also eat softshell clams — important to the economies of Ipswich and Essex — and mussels, industries worth $4.6 million and $1.4 million, respectively, in Massachusetts.
“They’re a problem,” Tony Murawski, a Gloucester-based commercial clammer and a senior research associate with Cell Signaling Technology, told reporter Arianna MacNeill. “They’re a nuisance.”
On Tuesday, several Cell Signaling employees, including Murawski, went out on a boat with Seaside Sustainability workers to check traps, collect data and harvest green crabs for use as bait. Removing green crabs helps protect mud flats, said Eric Magers, Seaside Sustainability’s executive director. This goes on from June through September.
“We need to find a market for them,” Murawski said. In Italy, the crabs are popular in meals; not so much in the United States. He said if there was a demand for the crabs, they would be caught. But without a market, crabbers don’t bother. “Right now you’re looking at ways to mitigate them.”
There’s a group working that — Plymouth-based Manomet Inc. received $267,440 from NOAA to investigate the viability of a soft-shell green crab industry in New England. But in the meantime, work like Seaside Sustainability’s may lead to ways to keep the green crab population in check.
JEERS to recent news that the Gulf of Maine is having one of its warmest summers in history.
Andy Pershing, a marine scientist with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine, said the gulf’s average sea surface temperature was nearly 5 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average over a 10-day period in August.
“We’re seeing really unusual conditions all over the planet this year. Wildfires and heatwaves. Unusual conditions. The Gulf of Maine is part of that story,” Pershing told the Associated Press.
Stretching from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, the Gulf of Maine is the center of the U.S. lobster fishing industry. It’s also an important feeding ground for endangered North Atlantic right whales — scientists estimate there are fewer than 450 of the marine mammals left alive.
But the gulf is also warming faster than most of the world’s oceans. Pershing said the waters off New England have warmed at a rate of about 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 30 years — more than three times the global average.
Warmer water is particularly bad for right whales because it affects their food supply, researchers say. It could also threaten the lobster population, which scientists say appears to be moving north.
Some species appear to be adapting, according to the institute. Puffins, for instance, which were struggling to find herring to feed their chicks earlier this summer, have opted for other species, like squid, that are usually found further south but have migrated to the gulf’s warmer waters.
Will other species react the same way? That remains to be seen. If anything, the data show the warming trend won’t end without some real work nationwide on climate change.