Thursday, 21 Oct 2021

Alarm as aggressive Asian crab spotted on UK shores sparking fears of invasion

An invasive species of crab displacing native species across the world and destroying shellfish has been found for just the third time in Britain — sparking fears it is spreading here.

The Asian shore crab – or Hemigrapsus sanguineus – was first spotted on UK shores in 2014.

There had only been a few more recorded sightings of the non-native species in the years since, in Wales and Kent – until now.

Professional wildlife photographer and naturalist Steve Trewhalla snapped the crab while rockpooling in Weymouth, Dorset earlier this week.

Experts have previously said that the species could have arrived through ballast water or hull fouling – growth on ships.

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The species is regarded as invasive as it is aggressive and highly opportunistic with the ability to rapidly increase in numbers.

The crab is already an invasive species on the eastern coast of America and the northern coasts of France, Belgium and Holland, where it is displacing native shore crabs and destroying shellfish.

Steve said: "It's a beautiful crab, but it really doesn't belong here.

"[It] is already causing concern on the east coast of the USA. It's known to outcompete the native crabs and feed on shellfish such as mussels.

"So, like most invasives, its likely to affect local ecosystems as its thrives and spreads."

Non-native species are an increasing problem across Europe due to increased global trade and and a warmer climate.

The cost to the UK of controlling invasive species at £1.7bn annually.

Asian shore crabs are small and squarish in shape with three 'teeth' on either side of well-spaced eyes.

It is native to the coasts of Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea and Russia.

The Marine Biological Association (MBA) have asked the public to help identify Asian shore crabs.

The crab is small (up to 4.5 cm across), has a distinctive square shaped shell (carapace) with three teeth on each side, and distinctively banded legs.

If one is found please report it to the MBA.

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