MARYSTOWN, NL – Garnish fish harvesters Preston and Tonia Grandy are worried about what an abundance of green crab in the waters of Fortune Bay could mean for the future of the fishery.
“It is a bigger issue than I think a lot of people in 3PS realize, because it has only been the last three or four years that we started notice them (green crabs) here,” explained Tonia Grandy.
Over that time, she has made other observations in relation to the invasive species.
“I do a lot of kayaking on the river here behind my house, and I started noticing more green crab as I was going around, but I also started noticing a lot of dead clam shells.”
The Grandys have been working with DFO to try to figure out how much green crab is in Fortune Bay.
Cynthia McKenzie, marine biologist with the department, supplied them with pots to collect the crab.
“We’ve been finding them in areas we didn’t expect to find them, and we found them in numbers we never dreamt were even here,” said Grandy.
She said some days they’ve caught as many as 3,000 crab.
“In a month and a half span we caught almost 40,000 green crab.”
They have also been gathering detailed information on the crab, recording size, percentage of male to female and areas where they catch the most.
“I thought it was bad and I wanted to try and combat the numbers; I thought maybe we can knock them down, but in the month and a half that we done it, the numbers did not drop.”
Grandy said one of her concerns with the high number of green crab in the bay is the damage they do to eelgrass. Eelgrass is important to smaller fish and shellfish as habitat and food source.
Grandy notes she and her husband are volunteers when it comes to doing this research.
“It is a lot of hard work (we) have taken on to do for free,” she said. “It’s costing us fuel and… we’ve been lucky that a lot of the fishermen around Garnish have been good enough to give us old fish and stuff for bait, so that we didn’t have to go out and buy bait either.”
During outreach sessions hosted by DFO for inshore harvesters in Marystown on Nov. 21, the Grandys made suggestions they believe could help reduce green crab numbers.
One suggestion was for DFO “to put out a bounty” on green crab to sell as fertilizer or make into commercial-grade chicken feed, Grandy told the Southern Gazette.
“They (DFO representatives) said they had a buyer come in, so it goes to show there is a market for it – so why not put a bounty on their heads and get rid of them as fast as you can?”
She said fish harvesters may be more inclined to help if there was some compensation for their efforts, “even if it is just enough to cover their expenses — to pay for their pots, to pay for their fuel, their time to go out.
“People will do it because it is going to help other fisheries.”
She said if green crab are destroying eelgrass as well as eating mussels, clams and scallops, they will have a negative effect on other species.
Grandy said in the end, she and her husband had to stop their monitoring efforts because they were running out of places to put the crab.
“We buried them in a lot of places – they got to be killed, and that takes a lot of time too, having to spend time crushing up and killing everyone of those green crab. You can’t dump them back into the ocean because they can carry a parasite that can affect other shellfish like lobsters and other crab that are native to the area, so it is a very sensitive thing to deal with.”
Grandy said DFO and the provincial government need to intervene.
“Even the minister of fisheries needs to step in and find a way to help save Fortune Bay from the green crab,” she said.