In the animal kingdom, the class of shellfish is generally broken down into two groups: crustaceans and mollusks. Along with the American lobster in Maine, and the quahog in New England, the blue crab is an iconic species of shellfish in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.
In their native range from Texas to Massachusetts, blue crabs are a staple seafood and a catching them is a both a way of life and a favorite pastime. So, when Massachusetts-based diver, videographer and photographer, Charlie Nutting (@charlielikeswater), recorded a blue crab feasting on the flesh of a fellow crustacean, he was witnessing a longtime local capping the competition—like a patriotic mobster of the sea.
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In the video posted to Instagram (above), a sizable blue crab can be seen swimming off with the carcass (or remnants) of an invasive green crab. Unlike blue crabs, green crabs are native to Europe and the northeast Atlantic. It is estimated that green crabs hitchhiked their way to the northeastern U.S. sometime in the 1800’s during the height of the industrial revolution—a time when intercontinental trade was flourishing.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), green crabs are prolific spawners; they breed twice a season, producing up to 185,000 eggs per crab each spawn. They burrow into sandy, gravel areas of the sea floor where they feed on clams, oysters, mussels and more. And therein lies the problem. NOAA estimates that one green crab can consume up to 40 or 50 shellfish per day; they are capable of decimating a delicate food source for native predators, and endangering the livelihoods of commercial shell fishermen. It’s no wonder that marine biologists, scientists, anglers and even small businesses like Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire, have worked together to find a use for these invasive crustaceans.
Green crabs are green and orange in color, depending on when they last molted, but they are easily distinguished from the larger, tastier, more regal-looking blue crab. The primary use for green crabs from Maine to Virginia is as bait for tautog, however, due to their ever-growing presence, coastal anglers and businesses have been forced to get creative with green crabs, like working them into bottles of small batch whiskey.
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