SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 7, 2014

Battle plans laid for green crab

Tarr, stakeholders see growing threat to shellfish

(Continued)

Alan Young, a professor at Salem State University, suggested that frigid temperatures “may very well suppress the reproductive season.”

According to the DMF report, green crabs can lay up to 185,000 eggs at a time, and can have multiple clutches of eggs a year. The invasive species can reach maturity anywhere from one to three years and can live up to seven years.

They prey on shellfish, other green crabs and many other species. And while the crabs do have some natural predators; there is less than a 50 percent mortality rate on crabs that measure 5 millimeters and a 10 percent mortality rate on crabs that measure crabs up to 25 millimeters.

They are also known to shred eelgrass, according to Steve Woodman, co-owner of Woodman’s Restaurant in Essex — billed as birthplace of the fried clam.

“It’s a problem of more than just clams,” Woodman said. “It’s the whole ecology of what’s in the tidal zones.”

While he said there are other factors in the decline of clamming, the green crab could have been a culprit all along.

“Looking at a lot of the history, it seems like green crabs could have been a major influence in clamming,” he said.

Woodman and others said the problem is much worse in Maine; some have predicted that the clam industry in The Pine Tree State could be gone in two years.

And impacts in Maine markets as well as local ones will have a direct impact on restaurants and customers as Woodman and other restaurateurs have different clam sources.

Grundstrom, a third-generation clammer, echoed what others have said: the crustacean may well be the root of all evils in their ecosystem. He said that, when the crabs consume one food source in a particular area, they simply move onto the next — they are not picky eaters.

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