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May 4, 2011

Scientists seeking volunteers to track invasive crab

SERC_Chinese%20Mitten%20Crab%20copy.jpgChinese 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;

Call the Mitten Crab Hotline (443-482-2222) or upload photos and information to the new website or email the information to

Whatever you do, don't toss it back.


Posted by Candus Thomson at 10:59 AM |
About Candus Thomson
In a world of paper vs. plastic and candy mint vs. breath mint, my early memories involved a debate about the merits of freshwater vs. saltwater.

On the one hand, a great uncle’s fishing cabin on the Susquehanna River beckoned, but so did family gatherings on the Jersey Shore.

The correct answer, thankfully, was, “both.”

As The Sun’s outdoors writer for more than a decade, I’ve fished across Maryland in one day, hiked the width of the state in one hour, camped overnight in the median of I-95 to experience the wildlife between the fast lanes and chased mountain bikers in a 24-hour marathon race.

Those are some of the highlights. I’ve also fallen in a raging Gunpowder River during a trout survey (photo available upon request), had a shark spill its guts on my clothes and been stuck in a sub-freezing Vermont wilderness with men armed with flintlocks and hatchets, shuffling along on ancient wooden snowshoes.

And, in my travels I’ve met lots of you, who share a love of the outdoors and the good times and mishaps that go along with it.

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