The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) is warning everyone to look out for the invasive Chinese Mitten Crab, after U.S. Customs and Border Protection have intercepted some 15,000 of the crabs being smuggled into U.S. ports over the last four months.
The mitten crab is a seasonal delicacy in Asia and retail for approximately $50 per crab in the United States. But the species competes with native species like the blue crab, with disastrous consequences. They’ve been found in the Chesapeake Bay as well as Delaware Bay and the Hudson River.
The biggest mitten crab busts happened at the Port of Cincinatti, where Customs and Border Protection found 51 shipments of live crabs that originated in China and Hong Kong. They were destined for homes and businesses in multiple states, and the shipments were falsley labeled as tools and clothing. It is illegal to import mitten crabs without a permit, under the Federal Lacey Act. The violations are under review.
SERC’s Marine Invasions Research Lab, at the center’s campus on the West and Rhode Rivers, is dedicated to policing invasive species like the mitten crab. They even have a “Mitten CrabWATCH” website and Mitten Crab Hotline on which you can report crab sightings. SERC urges anyone who catches a mitten crab in regional waters to save it, photograph it, and freeze it.
-Meg Walburn Viviano