The Asian Shore Crab is one of many invasive species that have successfully established colony populations in North America. An invasive species is an introduced species or a non-indigenous species that invades a habitat outside of their native range. These invasive species can have a negative environmental, ecological, or economic affect on the habitats they invade. Invasive species can come in all life forms: animals, plants, or in this case crabs.
The Asian Shore Crab is native to the Western Pacific from Russia to Hong Kong including the Japanese Archipelago. Their enormous native range is largely due to their diet. They are opportunistic omnivores meaning they'll eat most things: microalgae, salt marsh grass, larval/juvenile fish, invertebrates, and more. Their flexible diet is also one of the main reasons why they were able to successfully invade the Eastern Seaboard of North America, despite the differences in ecology from the Western Pacific.
|Nonnative Range of the Asian Shore Crab|
So what do we do?!?! Well, once an invasive species has established itself, it is incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to get rid of them. So the best environmental policy response should be a forward thinking one. First, we should prevent the spread of invasive species in the future. Ballast water has been identified as the cause for a number of invasive species introductions. We must prohibit or treat the discharge of ballast water in nonnative areas.
One solution that has been suggested for the Asian Shore Crab and many other invasive species is to eat them. Introducing invasive species to our diets could be one of the more commercially viable and tasty solutions. The members of this new environmentally responsible food movement to eat invasive species call themselves invasivores. Asian Shore Crabs are even on the menu at Miya's Sushi, a restaurant in New Haven Connecticut. You can find recipes for Asian Shore Crabs here.
Another commercially viable option for the mitigation of the Asian Shore Crab is to use them as a replacement for Horseshoe Crabs in the bait industry. Thi Tran, one of Save the Harbor/Save the Bay's former Harbor Explorers, found Asian Shore Crabs as a useful replacement bait on one of our summer excursions to George's Island: read about it here! Asian Shore Crabs have attended many of Save the Harbor/Save the Bay's youth beach programs. While they represent a fun part of our summer youth programs, we feel that it is important to educate the youth and the general public about the environmental threat that they represent. In the summer of 2011, we conducted a research project to find out how the Asian Shore Crab has established its populations in the Boston Harbor. Our findings are pictured above to the right. To lean more about our research on Asian Shore Crabs in the Boston Harbor click here.
To learn more about Asian Shore Crabs and the Invasive Species Problem, explore these links:
- More information about the Invasive Asian Shore Crab
- Wikipedia page on Ballast Water and Environmental Concerns
- Wikipedia page on Invasive Species
- Wikipedia page on Biodiversity
- Recipes for Invasivores
- I personally recommend Eating Aliens by Jackson Landers a book about hunting and eating invasive species