Sustainability Environment

Washington state issues emergency order to address green crab infestation

University of Maine-Machias marine ecology professor Brian Beal holds a pair of green crabs on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, in Freeport, Maine. Beal  Clarke Canfield/ AP

Story at a glance

  • The state of Washington is battling a unique crustacean, called the European green crab.
  • It’s considered an invasive species that preys on other crabs, soft shell clams and scallops.
  • Local shellfish growers, tribes and other partners have been battling the European green crab since 2019 and requested state assistance to permanently eradicate the species.

The state of Washington is battling an “exponential” increase in European green crabs, an invasive species that has the potential to severely damage the economy and harm endangered species. 

Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued an emergency order on Wednesday that directs the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to implement measures to eradicate or prevent European green crabs from settling in, which also includes $8.9 million in emergency funding. 

In a press release, Inslee’s office described the European green crab population as a “globally damaging invasive species that, if they become permanently established, will particularly harm endangered species, impact resources that are part of the culture identity of the tribes and native people and affect small businesses.”  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture describes European green crabs as a widely distributed invasive species that spread rapidly and prey on other crabs, soft shell clams and scallops. They were first found in the U.S. back in 1817 along the East Coast and discovered in the San Francisco Bay area in 1989.  

The University of Washington says commercial shipping is the biggest vector of invasive marine species in the world, with green crabs able to move in sea chests or on fouled hulls. 


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According to Inslee’s emergency order, WDFW, tribal co-managers, shellfish growers and other partners first identified the presence of European green crabs along the state’s Lumni Nation’s Sea Pond and outer coast areas.  

Though WDFW took initial steps back in 2019 to address the increasing number of European green crabs in Washington, native tribes began flagging how the crabs were particularly affecting tribal cultural and economic interests and requested state assistance.  

Then last month, WDFW requested the state to immediately intervene and provide emergency funding, as they felt the crabs posed, “an imminent threat to the environment, economy and human well-being of Washington state,” according to Inslee’s emergency order. 

This week Inslee signed an executive order approving $8.9 million in emergency funding to address the invasion of European green crabs in Washington state, with the governor also asking the state’s legislature to provide additional emergency funding as requested by WDFW as soon as possible. 


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