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Way Downstream …(April 11-17, 2019)

In Europe, invasion of the blue crab

photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Program

       Breathless news accounts make it sound like something out of Jaws.

         “Only a big octopus could win a fight with a blue crab’s deadly pincers,” read an account in The Guardian last week.

         The typically reserved British paper is writing not of some fearsome sea creatures but of the crustacean that provides Chesapeake Country tasty lumps of our identity.

         Have our crabs gone on vacation, or what? As explained in the Guardian, https://bit.ly/2Im12UM, they arrived in the Mediterranean in recent years via ships’ ballast tanks. (Ships not fully laden fill up on water to maintain their trim and then dump it at port.)

         These stowaways clearly love their new habitat with its brackish marshes and freshwater rivers, just like home. For Spanish watermen, the love was unrequited — at least at first — amid complaints that the invaders have wiped out the local green crab and that they entangle themselves in fishing nets.

         “It devours everything,” said Joan Balague, head of a fisherman’s alliance.

         But folks are adapting to the visitor. In one area, they’re catching a ton of blue crabs every day as people find how well they work in paella and local dishes. 

         “It has become another resource, and there’s a market for it,” Balague said.