Invasive Animal

European Green Crab

Carcinus maeanus

About This Species

European green crabs are a highly invasive species in many parts of the world, including along the BC coast. They have been reported along the Southwest Coast of Vancouver Island, along the Central Coast near Bella Bella, and in Boundary Bay just south of Metro Vancouver. It is likely these crabs will continue to spread along the BC coast, as larval crabs can easily stow away in the ballast tanks of ships or be carried along on ocean currents.

European green crabs are typically found in shallow waters with lots of vegetation or sheltered areas. Typical habitats includes salt marshes, sandy beaches, and rocky coasts. These crabs reproduce up to two times per year, producing up to 185,000 eggs each time. The eggs hatch into free-floating planktonic larvae that drift with ocean currents for up to 80 days before settling as juvenile crabs.

European green crabs are generalists that feed on a variety of shellfish, other crabs, and other invertebrates. They are known to outcompete native crabs for food and habitat and could pose a serious threat to many other marine species.

European green crabs are highly damaging to eelgrass beds, which are critical habitat for many species of marine invertebrates and fish, including Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) and Pacific salmon species (Oncorhynchus spp.)

How to Identify

European green crabs grow to be between 6-10 cm wide. Their shells are a mottled olive green and brown, with two distinct crescent-shaped lines of yellow dots behind their eyes. There are six spines between the eye and the outer edge of the shell.

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