Searsport traps green crabs for statewide survey
The Searsport Shellfish Committee recently participated in a One Day Green Crab Survey offered by the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to local Shellfish Committees.
The committee set 10 traps in various locations along the Searsport coast and captured a total of 402 green crabs — an average of more than 40 crabs per trap. Searsport did not report nearly as many green crabs as Stockton Springs, which trapped 2,000 of the invasive shellfish in the same number of traps — possibly the highest from the statewide survey, according to the DMR.
Committee Chairman Robert Ramsdell said the standard lobster traps the committee used were not completely effective at holding the crabs once they were captured.
"A lot of crabs dropped off as we were hauling them in," Ramsdell said.
The committee is pursuing a partnership with Unity College students that want to study green crabs and effective ways to trap them. Currently, committee member Stan Wood is working on his own trap design to better capture the invasive crabs.
Committee member Phyllis Rackliffe also noted that the trap with the fewest crabs contained an "angry female lobster," which she thought may have contributed to the low count. There were no other lobsters or fish present in the other traps, one of which hauled in 77 crabs.
According a DMR press release, the population of the green crab, which is an invasive species from Europe, has noticeably increased recently and the species is apparently now devastating important commercial shellfish resources such as clams and mussels.
"The survey was designed to provide a snapshot of the locations and relative abundance of green crab populations statewide," stated the same DMR press release. "This information is to be used by DMR to raise awareness of the problem and assist municipalities with a plan for control of this aggressive shellfish predator."
Members of the Searsport committee noted seeing fewer mussels on the rocks and beaches around Searsport this season, possibly because of increased predation by the larger green crab population.