By Matt Byrne, staff writer, Portland Press Herald news story
Gov. Paul LePage on Friday ordered the creation of a 12-member task force to examine the effects of the invasive European green crab, which fishermen along the coast have said is decimating local shellfish populations.
Although the species has been reported in Maine since 1904, recent weather patterns and warming ocean temperatures have allowed the tiny critters to move north, devouring blue mussels, soft- and hard-shell clams and coastal grasses.
The crabs have contributed to wetland erosion as well as depleted stock of spat, the tiny juvenile clams that are easy targets for the voracious species.
“Green crabs are threatening our state’s $25 million bivalve shellfish industry, which is Maine’s third most lucrative fishery,” LePage said. “It’s critical that we protect the fishery and the good jobs the industry supports.”
The panel will include representatives from the state departments of Marine Resources, Environmental Protection, and Economic and Community Development, as well as towns with shellfish ordinances, representatives of the bivalve fishery and marine resource industry, and three researchers.
The task force will be charged with identifying the direct economic impact of the crabs on the shellfish industry; developing long-term eradication and control plans, and identifying the cost of the crab-control strategies. A report is due by Sept. 30.
Not only do the crabs pose an economic threat, the governor said, but also a gustatory dilemma in a state known for its seafood.
“This invasive species could destroy some of Maine’s most famous dishes, including steamed clams and the fried clam dinner,” LePage said.