Mission: Chinese Mitten Crab

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Photo by Christian Fischer CC:BY-SA
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Photo by flickr user gbohne CC:BY-SA
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Photo by flickr user Ken Janes CC:BY-SA

Research Question

Is the Chinese mitten crab in Maine yet? If it is, where do we find it can it survive in Maine?

You’re invited

Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts Sea Grant Programs as well as scientists at Maine DMR and DEP are concerned about a new invasive species on the east coast: Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis). It has been spotted as far north as the Mianus River in Greenwich, Connecticut and as far south as the Chesapeake Bay. Because it is a recently introduced species, it is unknown what impacts it will have in Maine.

Scientists need your help being on the lookout for any Chinese mitten crabs that may have made it to Maine’s waters!

Mission steps

  1. Print the species card for Chinese mitten crab and a coastal species survey datasheet or a freshwater datasheet.
  2. Go into the field and collect data to make your claim of FOUND or NOT FOUND
  3. If you find mitten crab, preserve the specimen by freezing it. Do NOT put it back where you found it. Call Robert Russell at the Maine Department of Marine Resources at 207.633.9524 to report the sighting. If you would like to see the full rapid response plan for the Chinese mitten crab, it can be found here.
  4. If you don’t find mitten crab, note what the conditions of your sample site were like.
  5. Post your data! FOUND or (hopefully) NOT FOUND

Why this mission matters

Scientists are unsure how quickly the Chinese mitten crab is spreading, where along the East Coast it is, and what impacts it will have in Maine. What scientists do know is that the Chinese mitten crab has been damaging ecosystems on the West coast and in Europe for years.

The potential for damage is great. The Chinese mitten crab lives most of it’s life in freshwater. Adults come downstream to estuaries to breed, and the larval crabs develop in the ocean. This means that Chinese mitten crabs could impact freshwater, brackish and marine ecosystems.

With your help, and a lot more eyes on the ground, scientists can study and control these crabs early in their introduction to the East Coast.