• Outdoors Outdoors

Experts urge people to fish and eat crab species invading coastlines and wreaking havoc: 'Do not throw it back alive'

"The news [is] anything but crabulous."

"The news [is] anything but crabulous."

Photo Credit: iStock

A crab with furry, mitten-like claws may seem adorable — but for New York residents, the sight may soon become all too common.

The Chinese Mitten Crab, distinguished by a pair of signature fuzzy claws on adults, is a species indigenous to East Asia. But due to its ability to spawn over a million eggs at a time and survive in even the most brackish of waters, the crab has spread into regions around the world — and now, it's getting comfortable in waters around New York.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation announced the unsavory arrival, stating that mitten crabs were found in the Nissequogue River, the Hudson River, and recently, the Long Island Sound.

"The news [is] anything but crabulous," they joked. But humor aside, they warned, the crabs "have the potential to disrupt local ecosystems by out competing native marine life."

The crab has already established invasive populations in Europe and San Francisco, where it has proved to be deleterious to local ecosystems and local economies. From destroying fishing gear and stealing bait to eroding banks with their movement and burrows, these small crabs pack a large, fuzzy punch.

One potential solution to curbing the population? Eat them.

The species is already considered a delicacy in China. One report from the Natural History Museum found that the number of invasive crabs in the River Thames, which runs through London in the United Kingdom, "is large enough to support an artisanal fishing industry," which would be an additional benefit to fishermen whose profits had been damaged by the presence of the crabs.

The strategy of turning invasive species into sustenance is common; it's been implemented to deal with everything from weeds to the venomous lionfish.

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But if you find a mitten crab and you're not ready to cook it up, New York officials recommend freezing it instead. 

Regardless, as the Smithsonian says: "Do not throw it back alive!"

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