Global warming initiates crab attack

Encouraged by the rapidly rising temperatures of the ocean, European green crabs could invade and eat away clam beds, threatening the US state's third largest fishery.

The warmer temperatures of the water seem to have created a boom in the crab population; and with these crabs consuming clam beds like never before, it might mean a threat for the iconic summer treat for tourists.

"If something isn't done soon, it will mean the death of the clam fishery," Chad Coffin, president of the Maine Clammers Association, said. "I don't think people understand just how big a problem this is."

Scientists suggest that these crabs may have reached the US shores in the early 1800s, and gradually worked their way to Maine, where they reside for almost a century now. These green crabs are listed among the Worst 100 invaders on the Global Invasive Species Database.

While Maine's soft shell clams are popular among vacationers and tourists and are worth an estimated $15 million, the attack of the crabs, which seem to have a taste for these scallops, oysters, mussels and clams, may be scary.

"We're realizing that in a single lifetime clams and mussels have disappeared from most of our flats," Coffin, who has spent nearly 40 years fishing on the Maine coast, said.

And it's not just this, the World Bank report of 2010 estimates a whopping $1.4 trillion annual damage due to this global warming fueled spread of invasive species, which is approximately 5 percent of the global economy.

Rising temperatures of water have stimulated a similar condition in the area near the Caribbean Sea and in the Eastern United States.

"Our own impacts are making these historic and existing invasions even worse," Ted Grosholz, a scientist at the University of California at Davis who has studied the spread of green crabs and other invasive species on both coasts, explained.

The invasion is causing worries among the Maine clammers. Though further studies may be needed to know more about this invasion, it seems that the clammers do not have the luxury of time, and things need to be implemented soon enough to minimize the damage.

"We used to take and expect Mother Nature to replenish, but that's a thing of the past," Coffin said, turning over a clump of mud to expose hundreds of scurrying crabs. "Things are changing fast and it's getting out of control."

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