Alaska environmental protection agencies last month hosted a statewide event in Homer discussing the discovery of invasive European green crabs in Alaska waters.
The event, held Aug. 29-31, addressed what agencies can do collectively to detect and protect against the species. The organizers were particularly interested in improving public awareness on the topic and in citizen-based invasive species monitoring, according to facilitators and event participants.
European green crabs are a globally damaging invasive species that pose a threat to Alaska’s economic, environmental and cultural resources, Leah Elwell, event planner with Conservation Collaboration, said in a media release.
Facilitated by Elwell and Lisa DeBruyckere with Conservation Collaborations, LLC., the event brought together representatives from local, state and federal environmental management agencies to consider ways to prepare Alaska communities on ways to look for and respond to the invasive species, according to Elwell.
Conservation Collaborations is a national government affairs and strategic planning consulting firm based out of Montana that helps connect organizations to address conservation and climate change objectives, according to the company website.
Representative organizations at the workshop included the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the Chugach Regional Resources Commission, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council, the Metlakatla Indian Community, the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service, Elwell said.
Potential impacts of the crab include destruction of eelgrass beds and estuarine marsh habitats, threats to the harvest of wild shellfish and the shellfish aquaculture industry, and an array of ecological impacts to food webs which could negatively impact human uses and the cultural and natural resources of coastal Alaska, according to the event press release.
European green crab were first detected in Southeast Alaska in 2022. The Metlakatla Indian Community, located on Annette Island, has been trapping the species in hotspot locations to reduce existing populations and prevent further spread, Jasmine Maurer, harmful species lead at the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, said.
The Kachemak Bay Research Reserve contributes to a statewide volunteer partnership that monitors for invasive species. Participants in the group hope to eventually help train community members on how to identify the European green crab, Maurer, who helped coordinate the event locally, said.
The two-day event in Homer took place at the Islands and Oceans Visitor’s Center, with some outdoor practice testing on the beach by the fishing hole on the Homer Spit on the second day of the workshop.
The first phase of the workshop included presentations and discussions on the biology and movement of European green crabs on the U.S. West Coast, the current status of the species in Metlakatla, how to respond to detection of the species and suitable response protocols. Response includes tools needed such as crab pots, permit requirements and where data submission needs to go, Maurer said. Many of these features are resources that can be shared between members of the natural resource agencies.
The response component of the workshop was conducted by Maurer, Tammy Davis, invasive species program coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Juneau, and Kris Holderied, director of the Kasitsna Bay Lab in Kachemak Bay.
The final phase of the workshop included a discussion session on increasing communication with potential outreach audiences such as commercial fishers, people involved in mariculture, and the general public, including school groups, according to the exercise agenda for the event.
Visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website and search “European green crab” for information about how to identify the crabs.
If you find a crab or crab shell you suspect to be a European green crab, rather than collecting it, take many photos of the crab next to a key, coin or credit card for scale. Banned invasive species may not be collected, possessed or transported without a valid permit.
To report your observations, visit https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=invasivespeciesreporter.main or call the Invasive Species Hotline: 1-877-INVASIV. To submit photos and for more information about invasive species contact: Tammy Davis, ADF&G Invasive Species Program coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-465-6183.