European green crabs can be identified by the five spines on each side of their eyes and can range in colour from green, yellow and orange. (Black Press Media file photo)

European green crabs can be identified by the five spines on each side of their eyes and can range in colour from green, yellow and orange. (Black Press Media file photo)

Invasive European green crab scuttles into Esquimalt Lagoon

Colwood beachgoers asked to report any sightings as range creeps into new Island areas

The Capital Regional District is warning Colwood beachgoers to be on the lookout for invasive crabs after a recent discovery.

Five European green crabs were discovered in the Esquimalt Lagoon, and volunteers with the Esquimalt Lagoon Stewardship Initiative are working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to monitor the highly invasive crustacean.

The crabs are known to devour native species and destroy eelgrass habitat. They can be identified by their characteristic five spines located to the side of each eye on their shells.

While called green, they can also be yellow, orange, or mottled, and can be as large as four inches across.

The species was first spotted at the lagoon back in the spring of 2019.

The European green crab is now present all the way up the West Coast, but that invasion has been going on for over two decades, Tom Therriault, a research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, told Black Press Media earlier this year.

First found on the Atlantic coast in 1951 in the waters off New Brunswick, they have expanded to many locations along the east coast. In the west, the European green crab likely arrived in the late 1990s through larval transport.

They moved naturally, through larval drift, up the coast and were first reported on the U.S. side of the border in fall 2016, with subsequent discoveries in 2018.

Now they’re found along the entire west coast of Vancouver Island. Whether the invasive crab is crawling up the inside coast remains largely unknown.

So far, the crabs have been found as far north as Haida Gwaii.

Anyone who finds a European green crab on Vancouver Island shorelines should report the invasive species. Take photos and note the exact location, with GPS coordinates if possible, along with the date and identifying features. Fisheries and Oceans Canada can be reached toll-free at 1-888-356-7525 or via email at AISPACIFIC@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

READ MORE: Extreme weather could help invasive green crab crawl along Vancouver Island, B.C. coast


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