Over 38,000 European green crab caught this year; future efforts prioritize local waters

The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife provided an update on European green crab efforts.

According to the release, as the 2023 field season is underway there has been an increased emphasis on Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor.

Officials state that the local waterways are the top priority given the high capture rates through 2022 and into early 2023.

The March/April European Green Crab Public Update highlights the ongoing efforts to reduce the crab population to levels that are less harmful to the environment, economy, and to cultural resources.

As of April 26, over 38,000 of the invasive species have been removed from the coastal areas this year.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) unit anticipates deploying more than 25 staff and 1,000 traps during this field season, along with other equipment and resources.

WDFW states that Coastal shellfish growers and other partners are meeting with WDFW and representatives of other state and federal agencies to plan and coordinate the deployment of ramped up EGC control and removal measures in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor in 2023. 

A total of $1,295,000 was provided to Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor EGC management efforts in fiscal years 2022–23. 

This funding includes $675,000 from the EGC Coastal Management Grant Program that provides dedicated funding for local removal efforts on the Washington Coast as was detailed in the Nov/Dec EGC Public Update and $620,000 from the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) EGC Interagency Fund for equipment, research, and staffing for the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Willapa National Wildlife Refuge.

To expand EGC management and improve interstate coordination, in March WDFW sent letters to Members of Congress and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requesting enhanced funding and support, including a coordinated West Coast strategy for European green crab control. 

In addition to bait and traps, organizations are in the process of preparing and acquiring boats to aid their trapping operations. Using funds from the Statewide EGC Emergency Measures Interagency Funds Program, both Pacific County Vegetation Management and the Washington Department of Natural Resources are in the process of acquiring watercraft to assist with trapping. WDFW has three boats ready to be deployed for EGC trapping.

WDFW is currently hiring eight new seasonal technicians for the season. With five returning seasonal staff, they expect to have more than 17 technicians and five biologists ready for an intensive season of EGC trapping. 

Officials said that with at least 1,000 traps ready to be deployed across the state, WDFW, co-managers, partners, and tribes are ready for a busy field season.