Furry invaders terrorize fishermen and block cooling systems of power plants (4 photos)

Category: Animals, PEGI 0+
17 June 2024

An invasive species of crab from China is taking over the rivers and straits of megacities - local authorities are calling for the “terrorists” to be caught.

The furry-clawed mitten crab is an invasive species from China known for terrorizing fishermen and blocking power plant cooling systems. Now the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) is warning that the animals are taking over the metropolis.

Department officials urge residents of the metropolis to catch crabs and place them in freezers, and then report them to the authorities. Sightings of crabs have previously been reported along the Hudson and Nissequogue rivers, as well as in Long Island Sound. Note that crab invasions have previously been observed in San Francisco, the Chesapeake Strait and even in London's Thames River

Marine biologists have also expressed concern that the invasive species could displace many native species that are now vulnerable. What's more, scientists believe the crabs could also change the entire local food chain. The crabs move between brackish and saltwater waters and have the potential to disrupt local ecosystems by competing with species that live there, conservationists say.

NYDEC described the Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis, which is native to East Asia, as a “generalist predator” capable of altering entire food chains, with the invasive species eating the eggs of native fish and invertebrates. In addition, members of this species use digging techniques that can destabilize river banks and increase erosion. This in turn increases the risk of flooding and reduces habitat for native species.

Chinese mitten crabs come in a variety of shades from light brown to olive. At the beginning of their life, they are tiny, but as they grow older they grow and develop their furry claws. The claws have dense patches of brown bristles, or “setae,” which give mitten crabs their name.

The invasive crab species was first brought to the United States in 1992 by shrimp trawlers. As a result, the crabs established their population in San Francisco Bay. Considered a delicacy in Asia, the crabs have also been illegally introduced into markets in Los Angeles and San Francisco, despite the fact that the import, export or sale of live crabs of this species is prohibited in the United States.

The first mitten crab was reported in New York in 2007, when it was discovered during a commercial fishery in the Hudson River. Over almost two decades, the crab population has expanded significantly and now animal rights activists are forced to appeal to the public to catch representatives of this species.

NYDEC staff encourages New Yorkers to inspect boats, trailers and equipment and remove debris and dirt from them to eliminate the invasive species. If a mitten crab is found, department officials urge the crab to be removed from the environment, photographed, then frozen and turned over to authorities for further analysis. Local residents are also asked to indicate the exact location where the crab was found so that department employees can later investigate the site.

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