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Attack of the Schwartzencrab
INVASIVES WEEK: Not the lobster! Alien green crabs are gobbling up Maine’s seafood industry.

When you think of Maine, you probably think of a brisk coastline teeming with lobster and shellfish. But there is one crustacean that just doesn’t belong on those rocky shores. Meet the green crab, a voracious European invader and the subject of “Clawing Their Way to the Top,” Elizabeth Royte’s contribution to OnEarth’s Invasive Species Week. The pinchy poacher is also the star of “Attack of the Green Crabs,” a cartoon video produced by O’Chang Studios, with help from the Maine Clammers Association. The animated immigrants—clad in top hats and monocles—are pretty adorable, but as Royte explains in her story, what they are doing to this side of the Atlantic is anything but cute.

Warming waters are giving these exotic crabs a boost, and scientists think the crab might even be breeding with a northern cousin to spawn “schwartzencrabs” that are more resilient to the cold—and ultimately more destructive. The green crab population is already nibbling through Maine’s mussel fishery, mowing down eel grass ecosystems, and putting the kibosh on the state’s $15 million softshell clam industry. And those native species might just be the appetizers: scientists think green crabs could be moving on to a bigger, richer course—Maine lobster. Gulp.

The green crabs aren’t leaving much seafood for the rest of us. So should we eat them instead? Sorry, they aren’t meaty enough for even a morsel.

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Rocky Kistner has been a reporter and video producer for more than 20 years, working for news organizations including ABC News, the Center for Investigative Reporting, American Public Media, and PBS Frontline. MORE STORIES ➔