Lummi Nation Says Whatcom Green Crab Invasion is a Disaster
The Lummi Indian Business Council passed a resolution declaring a disaster after more than 70,000 European green crabs – an invasive species – were caught and removed from the Lummi Sea Pond in recent months.
The tribe cultivates shellfish and juvenile salmon in the 750-acre marine pond surrounded by the reserve’s most productive natural shell beds. Crabs threaten hatchery operations, tribal shellfish harvesting and can have greater impacts if the infestation spreads.
“The emergence of the European green crab is a serious threat to our treaty fishing rights,” Lummi Nation President William Jones Jr. said in a press release.
The council passed the resolution on Tuesday, November 23, following a multi-agency effort led by Lummi’s Natural Resources Department to take down the aggressive predator that consumes shellfish, destroys salmon habitat and is credited with the decline fast in the Maine clam industry. over the past decade.
The resolution establishes a working group that will face the crisis with a comprehensive response strategy.
âThe warming of the water temperature due to climate change has only made matters worse,â Jones said. âUnless action is taken to contain and reduce the problem, we will see this invasive species spread further in Lummi Bay and adjacent areas of the Salish Sea. “
The crab – native to Europe and North Africa – is a highly adaptable shore crab that feeds on juvenile clams before they reach harvest age, outperforming native crab species, such as the Dungeness crab, and wreaks havoc on coastal marine and estuarine ecosystems.
It is also known to burrow into the banks of marshes and uproot eelgrass beds, an important nursery habitat for juvenile salmon.
In light of the crab’s devastating ecological impacts, the Washington Sea Grant’s Crab Team coordinated a region-wide early detection effort in partnership with the state, tribes and volunteers in 2015.
The remains of a crab were found in Squalicum Harbor in May 2019 – the first confirmation of the “world invader” in Whatcom County. Later that year, the crabs were found on Lummi Nation beaches and in the tribe’s aquaculture pond near the fish and shellfish hatchery.
In September 2020, traps captured nearly 1,000 crabs in Lummi’s marine pond alone.
Prior to that, the largest number of crabs had been found near the Makah Reserve located at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula in County Clallam.
Last June four were found in Squalicum Harbor, marking the first time live crabs were found in Bellingham Harbor.
Today, tens of thousands of people have invaded the Lummi Sea Pond – a “perfect breeding ground” with abundant food, protection from predators and a stable growing environment.
The staggering and unprecedented population explosion has led the Lummi Nation, the Crab Team, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the University of Washington to collaborate on the largest European green crab trapping effort since its detection in the west the United States.
In an October meeting with the 29 state-recognized tribes, Governor Inslee overheard some tribal leaders discussing how the crab infestation is hurting their tribes and their economies.
Of particular concern is the impact of crabs on salmon, after more than 2,500 adult chinooks have died in the South Fork since September and recent flooding has further disturbed their habitat.