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Public Asked to Report Invasive Mitten Crabs

July 17, 2007

The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife would like recreational crabbers to be aware that five Chinese mitten crabs were recently caught by commercial watermen on the Delaware side of Delaware Bay/River (near Liston Point, east of the Taylor Bridge, DE). Mitten crabs are native to Asia but have invaded portions of northern Europe and California.

These crabs are listed as an invasive species. They were first reported in June, 2006, at the mouth of the Patapsco River in Maryland and this year the sightings have expanded to Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and the Hudson River near the Tappan Zee Bridge. The Division of Fish and Wildlife has contacted, and will be cooperating with, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Maryland, which is spearheading the investigation of mitten crabs in Chesapeake Bay and now Delaware Bay.

The search area for this species has expanded due to the sightings in Delaware Bay and Hudson River. The SERC would like to gather as much information as possible on any mitten crabs that have been caught this year or in recent years to help determine their current distribution. The public can help by providing information on any mitten crabs that are encountered.

The crabs are easy to identify and the mitten crab poster lists identification characteristics as well as some general information on the species. The poster was designed for distribution throughout the Chesapeake Bay area, but all of the information applies to Delaware Bay and Delaware River as well.

If a mitten crab happens to be caught, it is important to document as much information as possible and take a picture of the crab for identification and proof of capture. Specific information the SERC is looking for is: the location caught (latitude and longitude if possible), carapace size in mm (inches are also acceptable), sex (see poster for proper identification), date caught, how caught, any missing legs and contact information for the person capturing the crab.

The SERC is also interested in obtaining as many crabs as possible to improve their genetic sampling to help determine where the crabs may have originated. Please do not release crabs alive and contact the Nacote Creek Marine Fisheries Office at 609-748-2020. To provide the crab for genetic sampling, it should be frozen or put on ice and delivered to the Nacote Creek Research Station (two miles north of Smithville on Rt. 9 in Galloway Township) or, if possible, our office will arrange for someone from the SERC to come and pick it up.

Please be advised that these crabs are listed under the Lacey Act which makes it illegal to import or transport this species across state boundaries without a permit. If you have any questions please call the Nacote Creek Marine Fisheries Office at 609-748-2020.

Mitten Crab Poster (pdf, 53kb)
SERC Marine Invasions Research Lab - has link to July 13 update

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: July 17, 2007