FREEPORT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The green crab is not a native to Maine, but it's slowly starting to take over the coastal ecosystem, eating up commercial-sized clams and lobsters.
PHOTOS: Invasive green crab
In fact, Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner, Patrick Keliher, says the green crab is the number one threat to that portion of the coastal economy - a portion that rakes in more than $25,000,000 annually.
Chad Coffin, President of the Maine Clammers Association, says clammers have noticed an increase in green crabs over the past two years, when the water has been warmer. He says they're not only invading clams and lobsters, but also the eel grass. That means the crabs have noticeably been changing Maine's coastal ecosystem.
On August 1, the Maine DMR sent out a notice to coastal municipalities, asking if they would like to participate in a 24-hour survey of the green crabs. Commissioner Keliher says 31 towns and cities, from Kittery to Lubec, signed up. Volunteers set out modified lobster traps with clams and other bait inside. Keliher says these types of surveys can only be done when volunteers and municipalities work together with state efforts.
Then, on Wednesday afternoon, clammers and fishermen began hauling up the traps. In Freeport, nearly every trap had green crabs - some chock-full of the invasive creatures.
Kohl Kanwit, the director of the Maine Department of Marine Resources Bureau of Public Health, randomly selected 50 green crabs from each trap, varying in size and, ironically, in color. The rest, she says, went to compost.
Looking forward, Commissioner Keliher says he hopes a business will see the green crab as a way to make money. Perhaps they could expand off experimental trials in Canada, where they have used the green crabs as bait.
As for now, clammers say any fisherman who catches green crabs should kill them and remove them. If they throw them back in the ocean, there is a chance of other green crabs preying off their own species and continuing the cycle.