Tribe partners with paper mill to monitor European green crab

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe is partnering with a Port Angeles paper mill to expand invasive European green crab monitoring.

“After we found a female green crab in the lagoon next to the McKinley Paper Mill in September 2023, we worked with the mill to start a European green crab survey program in the lagoon this year,” said Justin Stapleton, a project biologist for the tribe.

The tribe is checking the lagoon monthly using a variety of methods, including minnow, shrimp and Fukui traps. The tribe also beach seines for crab plus native species such as salmon, to gather data on what lives in the lagoon.

The Elwha watershed has been generally spared from invasive European green crab since they were first detected in Washington’s inland waters in 2016, but the tribe has been setting and checking traps in the Pysht River and at the Dungeness Landing between April and September annually. Only one was found at Dungeness Landing in 2017, Stapleton said.

The tribe submits data to Washington Sea Grant, which is overseeing a statewide monitoring program for the invasive species.

The invasive crab can threaten fisheries because they feed on clams, oysters, mussels, marine worms and small crustaceans, and can outcompete juvenile Dungeness crab. In large numbers, they can disturb sediment and uproot eelgrass meadows by burrowing and seeking prey, said Matt Beirne, the tribe’s natural resources director.

The green crab is hard to identify because they are not always green, but they can be identified by their long legs and five points, or “teeth,” along the front side of the shell. Any possible sightings of green crab should be photographed and reported to the state. It is illegal to kill or remove them from the area.

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe staff beach seine the lagoon by the McKinley mill for European green crab and other marine life. Photo and story by Tiffany Royal