Scientists seeking volunteers to track invasive crab
Chinese mitten crabs aren't native. They don't taste good steamed and coated in Old Bay. They are pests, potentially harmful to aquatic critters and shoreline and on the move into the Mid-Atlantic region.
The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is asking recreational crabbers, watermen and boaters to keep an eye out for them and report sightings on its new website.
The first mitten crab was pulled from the mouth of the Patapsco River by a waterman in June 2006, setting off alarm bells in the environmental community. The species is native to Asia and notorious for invading bays in California, Germany, England and elsewhere around the globe, then multiplying like rabbits.
Unchecked, they they tear fishing nets, clog water intakes and dig burrows that weaken and destroy earthen levees and dams.
Mitten crabs have round, light brown or olive green bodies that are smooth. Adults are 3- to 4-inches across. The most striking characteristic is the "fur" that covers their white-tipped claws.
Since 2005, more than 100 mitten crabs have been discovered in the Middle Atlantic states, from Maryland to New York.
Mitten crabs live most of their lives in freshwater streams and rivers, but travel to saltier water to spawn.
If you catch a mitten crab the research center is asking folks to:
Take a close-up photo;
Note the precise location of the find;
If possible, put the crab in the freezer or on ice;
Whatever you do, don't toss it back.