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Public Asked to Report Invasive Mitten Crabs

July 31, 2009

The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife would like recreational crabbers to be aware that Chinese mitten crabs have been caught in New Jersey waters, the most recent being those captured by both commercial and recreational fishermen in Raritan, Barnegat and Delaware Bays, all within the previous three months. Mitten crabs are native to Asia but have invaded portions of northern Europe and California.

These crabs are listed as an invasive species. They were first reported in June, 2006, at the mouth of the Patapsco River in Maryland and since then the sightings have expanded to include Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, New Jersey coastal waters and the Hudson River. The Division of Fish and Wildlife has contacted, and will be cooperating with, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Maryland, which is spearheading the investigation of mitten crabs along the eastern United States.

The SERC would like to gather as much information as possible on any mitten crabs that have been caught this year or in recent years to help determine their current distribution. The public can help by providing information on any mitten crabs that are encountered.

The crabs are easy to identify and the mitten crab poster lists identification characteristics as well as some general information on the species, including more detailed information on sightings through April, 2009.

If a mitten crab happens to be caught, it is important to document as much information as possible and take a picture of the crab for identification and proof of capture. Specific information the SERC is looking for is:

  • location caught (latitude and longitude if possible)
  • carapace size in mm (inches are also acceptable)
  • sex (see poster for proper identification)
  • date caught
  • how caught
  • any missing legs
  • contact information for the person capturing the crab.
The SERC is also interested in obtaining as many crabs as possible to improve their genetic sampling to help determine where the crabs may have originated. Please do not release crabs alive and contact the Nacote Creek Marine Fisheries Office at 609-748-2020. To provide the crab for genetic sampling, it should be frozen or put on ice and delivered to the Nacote Creek Research Station (two miles north of Smithville on Rt. 9 in Galloway Township) or our office will contact the SERC to arrange for delivery to their lab.

Please be advised that these crabs are listed under the Lacey Act which makes it illegal to import or transport this species across state boundaries without a permit. If you have any questions please call the Nacote Creek Marine Fisheries Office at 609-748-2020.

Mitten Crab Poster (pdf, 50kb)
SERC Marine Invasions Research Lab - has link to April 9, 2009, update
Chinese Mitten Crab Watch - Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: August 7, 2009