A CRAB, almost without predators, that devours everything – including its own – has made its way from America’s east coast to Spain’s Ebro Delta and the warm waters mean it’s flourishing.
Experts say that only the octopus is a match for the “deadly” pincers of the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) but “only a big octopus could win a fight” says Carmen Barbera, a researcher at the Marine Research Centre at the University of Alicante.
The invasive crabs were first spotted on Spain’s Mediterranean coast in 2012 and probably found their way via the ballast tanks of ships, says Barbera.
She says: “The Mediterranean temperature suits them, even more so after the warm winter we’ve had.”
“The Ebron Delta offers the perfect environment for the crab to flourish.”
The females can produce up to eight million eggs as many as 18 times over two years. Gestation takes 30-50 days and the young grow rapidly, devouring everything – including their own kind – with their large claws and powerful jaws.
Local fishermen claim the catch of local crabs and cockles has fallen as a result and the blue crab is often their only catch. The species destroys conventional nets and are fished with cages.
In 2018 they netted 53 tonnes with a value of around €135,000.
The head of the fishermen’s association on the Ebro Delta said: “It has become another resource and there’s a market for it so it’s profitable for fishermen. We have to adapt and make the most of what we can get.”