Oregon triples bag limit for invasive green crabs

New state regulations now allow recreational crabbers to catch triple the number of invasive green crabs in Oregon’s bays and creeks.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has increased the bag limit for European green crab from 10 to 35 per day. It’s part of a concerted effort to eradicate these invasive crustaceans, known to compete with native crabs for food.

Green crabs themselves are good to eat, and some recipes even call for them. They are much smaller than Dungeness or even the Red Crab, which makes them harder to clean.

Mitch Vance is a Shellfish Project Manager with the Marine Resources Program at Oregon Fish and Wildlife. He wants people to know for sure that it is a European green crab that they are catching.

“The main features that really help in identification – five spines on each side of the crab and between the eyes there are three rounded bumps,” he told KLCC. “It also has a fan-shaped shell.”

Vance said green crabs cannot reproduce in cold temperatures, but since the ocean warming events of 2015 their numbers have increased dramatically.

Vance said the increased daily limit was also meant to give recreational crabbers a break.

He said that while people were fishing for Dungeness when the limit was ten, if they unwittingly carried 11 green crabs as bycatch they were breaching the bag limit. And because the green crab is on the list of controlled species, it was illegal to release the 11th green crab. The new regulation solves this problem.

Vance recalled that green crabs aren’t always green when they come out of the water. And juvenile Dungeness crabs and native shore crabs can look a lot like green crabs in the rocky intertidal. He encourages crabbers to take a good look at a photo of green crabs before harvesting them.

In Washington State, Governor Jay Inslee has issued an emergency order to deal with exponential growth in the green crab population.

Lynn A. Saleh