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Scientists monitor juvenile European green crab populations in Drayton Harbor

Scientists are keeping a close eye on Drayton Harbor waters after discovering a sizable population of juvenile European green crabs, indicating growth of the highly invasive species.

In 2022, scientists found 313 European green crabs, about half of which were juveniles, said Allie Simpson, ecosystem project coordinator for the Northwest Straits Commission. Many of the juvenile crabs were found in a small creek between Dakota and California creeks last September and October.

The crabs are considered one of the world's worst invasive species and are known to destroy salmon habitats, such as eelgrass, and are a threat to shellfish and aquaculture industries.

Scientists have found just over 100 crabs in Drayton Harbor since this year's trapping season began in the spring, Simpson said. Slightly more crabs have been caught compared to this time last year.

Emily Grason, crab team program lead at Washington Sea Grant, said the warm fall last year allowed scientists to capture crabs later than usual.

"In some cases, sites in Whatcom and Skagit were reporting the highest capture rates during the final capture efforts of the year," Grason said. "Many groups weren't ready to stop trapping because there were clearly crabs out there. You want to see the decline in capture rates before pulling your traps out of the water."

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