New state regulations now allow recreational crabs to catch triple the number of invasive green crabs from Oregon’s bays and inlets.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission raised the bag limit of European green crab from 10 to 35 per day. It is part of a concerted effort to eradicate these invasive crustaceans—which are known to compete with native crabs for food.
Green crabs are good to eat on their own and some dishes are even suitable for them. They are smaller than Dungeness or even red rock crab, which makes them harder to clean.
Mitch Vance is a shellfish project leader with the Marine Resources Program at Oregon Fish & Wildlife. He wants people to know for sure that this is a European green crab they are biting.
“The main features that really help with identification are five spines on each side of the crab and three round bumps between the eyes,” he told KLCC. “It also has a very fan-shaped shell.”
Vance said green crabs can’t breed in cold temperatures, but since the 2015 ocean warming events, their numbers have increased dramatically.
Vance said the increased daily limit was also to give recreational crabs a break.
He said that when people were fishing for Dungeness, when the limit was ten, if they inadvertently caught 11 green crabs as bycatch, they violated the bag limit. And because the green crab is on the Controlled Species List, it was illegal to return the 11th green crab to the water. The new regulation addresses that puzzle.
Vance reminded that green crabs are not always green when they come out of the water. And juvenile dung and native shore crabs can look like green crabs in rocky estuaries. He encourages the crabs to get a good picture of the green crabs before going out to harvest.
In Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee has issued an emergency order to address the exponential population growth of the green crab.