why eat green crabs?

 

        Since being introduced to the Eastern United States in mid-1800s, the green crab has become one of the most destructive and widely spread invasive species of all time. Green crabs pose major threats to biodiversity by outcompeting local crab species, preying on soft-shell clam and mussel populations and destroying crucial eelgrass habitats by “slicing” grass while foraging. As temperatures in the Gulf of Maine and Cape Cod waters rise, green crab populations are expected to increase. In an effort to mitigate the green crab's catastrophic invasion, many environmental agencies have poured assets into removal efforts where fishermen are paid to compost crabs. We had a different idea: let's eat them. 

        At the Green Crab R&D Project, we aim to create incite a commercial market for the invasive green crab. Our team includes scientists, activists, culinary experts, students, seafood industry professionals, and fishermen. Our goal is not only to motivate the harvest and sale of green crabs but better understand the species from a biological and ecological perspective.

 
 SWEET POTATO & MAZANETTA CRAB CAKES - PHOTO BY MARY PARKS

SWEET POTATO & MAZANETTA CRAB CAKES - PHOTO BY MARY PARKS

 
 

CONNECTING VENETIAN TRADITION TO AMERICAN FISHERieS

        Despite the local demand for fresh seafood, expanding green crab populations, and a strong push for invasive species removal, the current market demand for local green crab is negligible. Travel across the pond to Venice Italy to the crab's native habitat and the story is very different. In Venice, green crabs are one of the most coveted and exclusive seafoods available and are often sold for their caviar or cultivated as soft- shells. Highly trained fisherman pass harvest and cultivation knowledge down from generation to generation and these trade secrets are largely contained within close-knit island communities.

        Working Venetian fisherman and North American scientists, the Green Crab R&D Project aims to merge ancient Venetian techniques with modern aquaculture technology while considering the ecological and biological differences between native and invasive populations. We hope to develop a year round market and demand for a variety of green crab products in order to encourage continuous removal. To learn more visit our blog. 

 
 MOLECHE/ SOFT-SHELL GREEN CRAB - PHOTO BY JONATHAN TAGGART

MOLECHE/ SOFT-SHELL GREEN CRAB - PHOTO BY JONATHAN TAGGART

 
 

OUR TEAM

ALYSSA NOVAK - Ph.D., Boston University

Alyssa is a coastal ecologist and assistant professor at Boston University School of Earth & Environment. She leads a multi-year study on green crab populations in Essex County, Massachusetts; trapping green crabs; and directing an effort to transplant eelgrass to mitigate green crabs' destructive environmental effects. 

 

GABRIELLE BEAULIEU - Project Coordinator for Coastal Restoration - Parks Canada, Nova Scotia

Gabrielle has been researching green crabs for eight years and serves as a rich resource to the team. In addition to ecological monitoring, her group researches innovative trap design for commercial development. 

 

GABRIELA BRADT - Ph.D., NH Sea Grant/UNH Cooperative Extension

Since 2015, Gabby has been studying the feasibility of implementing a green crab fishery for bio- control of the invasive species. Gabby investigates how ecological factors influence molting and hopes to use this information to develop a soft-shell green crab fishery here in the Northeast. 

contact: gabriela.bradt@unh.edu

 

HEATHER ATWOOD – Recipe Consultant

Heather is a Gloucester- based cookbook author and food blogger with a special interest in the livelihoods of fishing communities, and the new kinds of seafood available from the changing oceans. Heather works with the Green Crab R&D Project to develop recipes and is also involved in culinary outreach. 

 

JAMES ELLIOTT - Project Consultant and Crustacean Biologist 

James (Jimmy) Elliott is a 2016 graduate from Salem State University's Biology Program. As one of the early members of Green Crab R+D, Jimmy has studied population dynamics of the green crab, optimal trapping variables, endocrinology, and habitat suitability to inform the development of a commercial fishery in North America. Currently at the University of Maine in the College of Natural Science, Forestry, and Agriculture, Jimmy continues to work towards the goals of Green Crab R&D by supporting scientific decision making and volunteering in outreach when needed.

 

JOHN HAGAN - President of Manomet

As head of a highly-respected nonprofit headquartered in Plymouth MA, John is involved in many projects centered around sustainability, ecology, green development. Manomet's involvement with soft- shell clam preservation and aquaculture lead John to realize the devastating role of green crabs in the clamming industry and in turn Manomet has become a valued project partner. John works with activists in his local town of Georgetown, including Marissa McMahan and Jonathan Taggart.

 

JONATHAN TAGGART – Project Consultant & Soft-Shell Coordinator 

Jonathan is a resident of Georgetown Maine, in the mid- coast region where green crabs are incredibly common. On a professional trip to Venice, Italy, he took time out to scout the centuries- old artisanal industry of creating soft- shell green crabs for the gourmet market. He persuaded an expert from the Venetian green crab fishery, Paolo Tagliapietro, to travel to New England to share his skills. Jonathan works extensively with Marissa McMahan in trapping, monitoring and pre- molt detection.

 

JULIAN BURLANDO- SALAZAR - Media, Journalism and Outreach Intern

Julian is a student at the Boston University Questrom School of Business, studying law and the health and life science sector with a minor in sustainable energy and arts leadership. With a background in graphic design, video editing, and field work, Julian works to design educational content and marketing material in addition to assisting with public school education programs. Julian also leads our Twitter & Linkedin outreach initatives.  

 

KEVIN CHEUNG - Fisheries Biologists and Aquaculture Expert

Kevin works at U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's fish hatchery in North Attleboro, MA. In his free time, Kevin is also a commercial fisherman and green crab activist. He brings a multifaceted understanding of marine species combined hands on skills in hatchery and aquaculture equipment design and maintenance. 

 

MARISSA McMAHAN - Soft-Shell Coordinator 

Senior Fisheries Scientist (Manomet) & Ph.D. candidate (Northeastern University)  

From a lobstering family in Mid Coast Maine, Marissa researches the impact of climate change on the abundance of marine species. She leads our efforts to identify pre-molt signs in green crabs, helping to implement the world's first invasive soft- shelled green crab product. 

contact: mmcmahan@manomet.org 

 

MARY PARKS – Marketing Director

Mary serves as our Marketing Director in addition to her work in environmental compliance and data management at Red’s Best, a Boston based seafood wholesaler and dayboat cooperative. With a background in fisheries science, her roles include bridging our nonprofit to commercial fisheries, organizing outreach and culinary events and managing web design and social media platforms. Mary is also leading the development of our paperback cookbook publication

contact: maryparks@greencrab.org

 

PETER PHIPPEN - Ecological Director and Marine Conservationist 

As the Coastal Coordinator for the Upper North Shore region of the Massachusetts Bay National Estuary Project, Peter is involved in a vast array of salt marsh restoration projects. These projects include green crab ecological surveys and trapping and donating crabs to wholesalers and chefs to expand the culinary market.

 

ROGER WARNER Project Founder & Coordinator

Roger wrote the breakthrough cover story of the green crab ecological crisis and its potential for the culinary food industry for the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. As the project coordinator, his is also in charge of publicizing the efforts of this grassroots team to TV and print outlets, and thus ultimately growing consumer demand. Warner has also set up relationships with Massachusetts seafood wholesalers distributing green crabs throughout the Northeast and seeking to expand domestically and abroad. 

contact: rogerwarner@greencrab.org

SOPHIE ST. - HILAIRE - Ph.D, University of Prince Edward Island.

Sophie was the first North American (that we know of, anyway) to travel to Venice, Italy to study soft-shell green crab cultivation. While in Venice, Sophie unearthed a series of factors which indicate a pre- molt crab, a pair of thin adjacent lines, grey next to white, around the edges of the platelets on their undersides. Sophie is currently investigating how modern aquaculture technology can be combined with Venetian technique to effectively produce soft-shelled green crabs. 

 

 PHOTO BY JONATHAN TAGGART

PHOTO BY JONATHAN TAGGART