Scientists aim to curb crab crawl

Fishos are being asked to assist in a research program along the NSW Far South Coast to learn more about an invasive introduced crab species which is appearing more often in the waters of Australia’s southern State’s.

The European Green Crab was first introduced into Port Phillip Bay in Victoria about a hundred years ago, probably in ballast from ships arriving from Europe. Since then it has been recorded in South Australia, NSW and Tasmanian waters. Recent surveys have found the crab in numerous estuaries and coastal lakes on the far south coast of NSW.

The European Green crab grows to a maximum size of about 8cm across and is an environmental pest displacing native species and is a predator of shellfish which can result in significant losses for shellfish industries such as the oyster industry.

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The species has been listed as a Class 1 Noxious fish under Section 209 of the Fisheries Management Act 1994. This declaration prohibits the possession and sale of live European crabs.

Macquarie University in partnership with researchers from the Batemans Marine Park (BMP), Industry and Investment NSW (I&I NSW), Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority and the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre (SCMDC) have been awarded a $235,000 grant from the Australian Research Council to support a research program aimed at learning more about the crab and its movements so that its impact along the coast can be minimised.

Dr Melinda Coleman, BMP Research Scientist, said that one part of the research will attempt to track the migration of the crab along the coast to determine how it colonises coastal lakes.

“We are going to try to work out how the European Green crab spreads and what management action we can take to minimise its impact.

“It’s now common in the Batemans Marine Park and has been found in most of the coastal lakes which open and close to the sea,” Dr Coleman said.

Macquarie University PhD student, Cliff Garside, who will undertake the research, has been estimating European Green Crab abundance in many of the coastal lakes and lagoons on the Far South Coast and recently discovered it in Nadgee Lake just north of the Victorian border.

“It was a big surprise to find the crab in Nadgee Lake, which is surrounded by a pristine coastal wilderness area, because it is an undisturbed lake which has been closed for decades. I’m hoping that by collecting tissue samples we can use genetic testing to figure out where the Nadgee crabs came from and how they entered the lake.”

The European Green Crab comes in a range of colours but is identified by five very distinct spikes next to their eyes. If you find one please report it I&I NSW on the 24 hour recorded hotline: (02) 4916 3877 or email

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