Green Crabs Are About to Invade Alaska, First Signs Discovered by Intern

by Emily Morgan

Well, this calls for a promotion. As it turns out, an intern discovered the first signs of a green crab invasion in Alaska.

In July, a young woman was completing an internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Alaska, according to NBC News. While working, she discovered a shell of a uniquely-colored crab while walking the shoreline. Upon further inspection, it appeared she had found the European green crab.

However, this was just the beginning. She soon discovered two more green crabs.

“We always knew we were eventually going to see evidence of green crab,” said Dustin Winter, a member of the Metlakatla Indian Community and the program director of its fish and wildlife department, per NBC. “I didn’t think it was going to happen so quickly.”

Fast forward a month and a half later, over 80 live green crabs have been caught along the Metlakatla shoreline. Now, wildlife officials in Alaska are scrambling to solve this crab conundrum.

According to experts, the green crab is an infamous invasive species that has wreaked havoc on ecosystems and devastated East Coast commercial fishing companies for years.

In addition, these pesky creatures are nearly impossible to get rid of once they create a population.

The discovery, which scientists theorize is likely due to warming waters from climate change, threatens both Alaskan economies and ecosystems.

“They’re like marine locusts,” said Genelle Winter, the tribal community’s invasive species program director. Winter also revealed that the creatures break down the area’s coastal shorelines, feast on the Dungeness crab, and destroy the area’s eelgrass habitat for salmon.

Alaska wildlife officials prepare to eradicate green crab species

At the same time, efforts to circumvent green crab populations in other areas have required massive investment and measures. For example, earlier this year, Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency order to help prevent green crabs from spreading in Washington.

The state fish and wildlife agency assigned a crab “incident commander,” and its Legislature forked over $8.5 million in emergency funding to repel its invasion.

Now Alaska is preparing for what appears to be an uphill battle to eradicate the species.

“Green crab really can explode and dominate ecosystems,” said Linda Shaw, a wildlife biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration based in Juneau, Alaska. “The implications are huge for Alaska.”

This isn’t the first time wildlife officials have gone after these crabs. For the last 200 years, the menace has popped up in American waters. However, the green crabs later started popping up on the west coast in the 1980s when it was discovered in San Francisco Bay.

According to experts, these crabs are a shore species with long legs whose bodies can grow to about four inches in width. On the west coast, these crabs can also be easily confused with their native species. However, an indicator for green crabs is that they feature five spines next to each eye.