Gwaii Haanas resource management officer Clint Johnson Kendrick was out walking his dogs on July 4 when he saw something strange along the gravel beach at the Haydn Turner Campground in Daajing Giids.
To his horror, he had laid eyes on a dead European green crab (EGC), an aggressively invasive species that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) counts among the top 10 most unwanted species in the world.
“The ecological damage that these crabs can cause is a grave concern,” Kendrick told the Haida Gwaii Observer, adding they are a “scourge to ecosystems outside of their home.”
He quickly reported the sighting to the Haida Gwaii Invasive Species Group and based on his photo, DFO confirmed the dead crustacean was an adult male EGC, making it the first confirmed discovery of EGC on Haida Gwaii.
What’s worse, DFO spokesperson Lauren Girdler told the Observer initial site visits and trappings confirmed the presence of EGC in addition to the one found by Kendrick.
Girdler said a working group including DFO, Parks Canada, the Council of the Haida Nation, and the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has been working on a preliminary plan to determine the extent of the invasion and decide next steps. Additional surveys will begin this week.
“EGC may pose a serious threat to marine ecosystems as they are voracious predators and can negatively impact economically and culturally important species and habitats, including eelgrass beds that provide food and cover for juvenile salmon and herring,” she said in an email.
Girdler also cautioned that there are many types of native crabs that are green in colour, but only the EGC has five spines on the outside of each eye.
She asked that anyone who finds a suspected EGC document the location where it was found as well as the date captured, and submit a photo and any other capture information to DFO at AISPACIFIC@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
For more information on identifying features, visit the DFO website.
According to DFO, EGC were first found in Canadian waters in 1951 in New Brunswick and have since expanded to many other locations in Atlantic Canada.
EGC are believed to have arrived in B.C. between 1998 and 1999 through larval transport. Since then they have been found along the entire west coast of Vancouver Island from Barkley Sound to Winter Harbour with isolated populations on the central coast.
In June, the Lax Kw’alaams Band near Prince Rupert reported that EGC larvae had been confirmed in the area.
After hearing about the discovery of adult EGC on Haida Gwaii, Josh Temple, founder of the Coastal Restoration Society, told the Observer he believes more federal funding is needed to tackle the problem.
He said his society has been working on trapping and removing EGC within First Nations territories in B.C. for years, including projects throughout the south and west coasts of Vancouver Island.
“It’s unfortunate to hear that you guys have discovered them up there,” Temple said. “There’s going to be a real need for an aggressive response before they take hold.”
He reiterated that the crabs are “horrible destroyers of eelgrass beds” that are critical for rearing salmon, other fish and bivalves, and he believes the federal government should provide more resources for monitoring and control efforts.
Temple’s society expects no financial contribution from the First Nations they work with — “I don’t think it would be fair to rely on the First Nations to pay … to clean up a mess they didn’t create,” he said — primarily relying instead on fundraising from private and marine industry partners.
“I would hope to see more dedicated funding allocated for these programs,” he said.
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