PHOTOS: ‘One of worst’ invasive crustaceans found on Lower Mainland shoreline

Biologist Lori Schlechtleitner holds a crab native to the Surrey shoreline. (Contributed photo)Biologist Lori Schlechtleitner holds a crab native to the Surrey shoreline. (Contributed photo)
Lori Schlechtleitner secures a minnow trap in place in one of the Blackie Spit salt marsh channels Sept. 25. (Tracy Holmes photo)Lori Schlechtleitner secures a minnow trap in place in one of the Blackie Spit salt marsh channels Sept. 25. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Lori Schlechtleitner waits as Dave Shorter places a Fukui trap in one of the Blackie Spit salt march channels on Sept. 25. The effort is part of an ongoing project to prevent devastation caused by Invasive European Green Crabs, which have been found in the area as recently as mid-September. (Tracy Holmes photo)Lori Schlechtleitner waits as Dave Shorter places a Fukui trap in one of the Blackie Spit salt march channels on Sept. 25. The effort is part of an ongoing project to prevent devastation caused by Invasive European Green Crabs, which have been found in the area as recently as mid-September. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Volunteers return to Blackie Spit Sept. 26 to check what was caught. (Contributed photo)Volunteers return to Blackie Spit Sept. 26 to check what was caught. (Contributed photo)
Lori Schlechtleitner (centre) returned to Blackie Spit with volunteers Sept. 26 to check what was caught in the traps that were set the day before. (Contributed photo)Lori Schlechtleitner (centre) returned to Blackie Spit with volunteers Sept. 26 to check what was caught in the traps that were set the day before. (Contributed photo)
Lori Schlechtleitner retrieves a minnow trap from one of the Blackie Spit channels on Sept. 26. (Contributed photo)Lori Schlechtleitner retrieves a minnow trap from one of the Blackie Spit channels on Sept. 26. (Contributed photo)
PHOTOS: ‘One of worst’ invasive crustaceans found on Lower Mainland shoreline
Lori Schlechtleitner (right) and volunteers retrieve data from the Blackie Spit channels on Sept. 26. (Contributed photo)Lori Schlechtleitner (right) and volunteers retrieve data from the Blackie Spit channels on Sept. 26. (Contributed photo)
Lori Schlechtleitner walks in Blackie Spit adjacent to the protected salt marsh where traps were set last week as part of the European Green Crab project. (Contributed photo)Lori Schlechtleitner walks in Blackie Spit adjacent to the protected salt marsh where traps were set last week as part of the European Green Crab project. (Contributed photo)
Traps are tagged for identification purposes, in preparation for setting in channels in the Blackie Spit salt marsh Sept. 25. (Tracy Holmes photo)Traps are tagged for identification purposes, in preparation for setting in channels in the Blackie Spit salt marsh Sept. 25. (Tracy Holmes photo)
A Great Blue Heron watches the trapping effort from afar. (Tracy Holmes photo)A Great Blue Heron watches the trapping effort from afar. (Tracy Holmes photo)
A Great Blue Heron watches the trapping effort from afar. (Tracy Holmes photo)A Great Blue Heron watches the trapping effort from afar. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Lori Schlechtleitner explains where the traps will be set. (Tracy Holmes photo)Lori Schlechtleitner explains where the traps will be set. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Lori Schlechtleitner carries trapping equipment across the Blackie Spit salt marsh. (Tracy Holmes photo)Lori Schlechtleitner carries trapping equipment across the Blackie Spit salt marsh. (Tracy Holmes photo)
The European Green Crab has five spines to the outside of each eye and three bumps in-between its eyes. (www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/ image)The European Green Crab has five spines to the outside of each eye and three bumps in-between its eyes. (www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/ image)

An invasive crustacean described as one of the world’s top-10 unwanted species has made its way to Blackie Spit in South Surrey – as well as other nearby marine habitats – and efforts are underway to curtail its spread.

The European Green Crab “will eat anything that fits in its mouth,” Lori Schlechtleitner – a biologist/ecologist contracted by Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society to set up a local management program – said Sept. 25, during field work in Blackie Spit.

And that non-discriminating palate, along with a high resiliency to water temperatures and salinity and a distinct lack of predators to keep them in check, is bad news for native species.

“You’ve got to respect it for being so incredibly adaptive,” Schlechtleitner said of the spiny crab. “But it does have the potential to decimate.”

The crab, which can range in colour from dark mottled green to orange, is native to European and North African coastlines, and was first found in Canadian waters in 1951. It’s believed they arrived in B.C. between 1998 and 1999.

They are currently found along the entire west coast of Vancouver Island, and have an established population at the southern tip, in Sooke.

Lori Schlechtleitner (left) watches as volunteers check what was caught in the traps that were set Sept. 25. (Contributed photo)

Lori Schlechtleitner (left) watches as volunteers check what was caught in the traps that were set Sept. 25. (Contributed photo)

Schlechtleitner said a survey in early September just south of the border found 145 of the invasive crabs, while officials with DFO found “just one or two” in Blackie Spit both last year and last month. She said the reason behind the discrepancy between the two sets of numbers is unclear.

What is clear is that their presence is a problem that can’t be ignored. They have done substantial damage on Canada’s East Coast, she said. Left unchecked here, they will predate everything from oysters to juvenile crabs to eelgrass beds – a critical home for juvenile salmon – and alter the local shoreline ecosystem and habitats.

“On the Pacific Coast, they will brood up and eat the eelgrass beds, which is why we’re really concerned,” Schlechtleitner said.

“Once they start to take a leghold, that’s when the ecosystem might not, unfortunately, make it back.”

Schlechtleitner and volunteer Dave Shorter’s mission on Sept. 25 was to set a dozen traps in two channels that run through Blackie Spit’s protected salt marsh. Baited with cat food and staked 10 metres apart, they were left overnight to see if any of the unwelcome, trapezoid-shaped creatures were present. None were found, Schlechtleitner told Peace Arch News in an emailed update on Sept. 30.

The results were the same for traps set in the Little Campbell River estuary, on Semiahmoo First Nation land, the week prior, as well as for traps set off the base of 64 Avenue on Sept. 29. More traps were set at Delta’s Centennial Beach on Sept. 30.

Dave Shorter and Lori Schlechtleitner prepare bait and tags for traps in Blackie Spit on Sept. 25 as part of the Invasive European Green Crab project. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Dave Shorter and Lori Schlechtleitner prepare bait and tags for traps in Blackie Spit on Sept. 25 as part of the Invasive European Green Crab project. (Tracy Holmes photo)

The four locations were identified by DFO as priority management sites and will remain under close eye “for the foreseeable future,” Schlechtleitner said.

Schlechtleitner, who lives in Vancouver but grew up in Surrey, said for her, the effort is “a passion project.” It’s hoped that community groups will get involved, perhaps by adopting channels to monitor, or walking wrack lines – the line of debris left on the beach by high tide – after trapping season is over, to look for molts on the beaches.

“This is going to be a long-term management process,” Schlechtleitner said.

Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society has committed to the project for the long-term, society president Margaret Cuthbert noted.

Lori Schlechtleitner and Dave Shorter carry trapping equipment towards the Blackie Spit salt marsh. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Lori Schlechtleitner and Dave Shorter carry trapping equipment towards the Blackie Spit salt marsh. (Tracy Holmes photo)

“Since we have mapped 86 hectares of eelgrass in Boundary Bay and conducted the DFO 3-5 year Shorekeepers (program) for over 15 years, our Marine Coordinator Matt Christensen and our Board of Directors agree we must now focus our volunteer activities and funds to this crucial concern,” Cuthbert told PAN by email.

READ MORE: Grant to aid salmon efforts in Boundary Bay

VIDEO: Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Margaret Cuthbert

The City of White Rock has contributed funding to the effort, Schlechtleitner noted, but more is needed.

The ultimate goal, she said, is for the management efforts to reap only native-species results.

“That’s the goal of this project, is to not find what we’re looking for.”

Volunteers return to Blackie Spit Sept. 26 to check what was caught. (Contributed photo)

Volunteers return to Blackie Spit Sept. 26 to check what was caught. (Contributed photo)

Anyone who spots one of the crabs – they measure up to 10 cm across the back shell, and have three bumps between the eyes as well as five “spines” to the outside of each eye – is asked to leave it where it is, but email a photo and details of its exact location (ideally, GPS co-ordinates) and the date it was observed to aispacific@dfo-mpo.gc.ca



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

DFOEnvironment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Pamela Anderson was given a Ladysmith Heritage Award for the restoration work on the Arcady Auto Court property that she purchased from her grandparents. (Pamela Anderson photo)
PHOTOS: Star-studded Ladysmith Heritage Awards honour local commitments to heritage

Barrie McDonald, Pamela Anderson, John & Luke Marston, and the Ladysmith Maritime Society recognized

Kim McGregor died in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run accident in Chemainus. (Photo submitted)
Victim identified in Valentine’s Day Chemainus hit-and-run

Kim McGregor grew up in Chemainus and had recently returned to be close to his parents

Ella Donovan with mom Tina outside Fuller Lake Arena before heading onto the ice for practice. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Young Ladysmith skater watches and waits in battle against cancer

Ella Donovan’s tumour began a tumultuous time, but community support eased the burden

The Ladysmith Museum has two new exhibits open to the public. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith museum opens up with two new exhibits

The museum is featuring Prime Predators of Vancouver Island and ‘Red Flag, Red Flag’

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

RCMP say a woman turned herself in to police after hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene of the accident in downtown Nanaimo on Friday morning. (File photo)
Driver flees, then turns herself in after hitting pedestrian in downtown Nanaimo

RCMP say woman was struck in marked crosswalk after driver ran red light

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

Most Read