FREEPORT, Maine — Clammer Clint Goodenow motored his skiff up to a small white buoy in the Harraseeket River on Monday afternoon and began pulling up yards of rope from the bay floor below.
After reaching the end of the rope, he leaned over the side of the boat and plunged his hands into the water, grabbing hold of a black metal trap. In what appeared to be a delicate balance, Goodenow heaved the trap into the small boat, positioned it above a gray rectangular storage container, and flipped open the latch at the bottom.
Dozens of European green crabs crashed into the container — some 1 or 2 inches across, others 5 or 6. He then pounded the top and sides of the trap to knock loose the remaining crabs.
Three traps later, the 100-pound container was brimming with crabs. Some attempted to spring loose but quickly were snatched up and shut in with a lid.
Goodenow, who is part of the largest effort in the state’s history to study the decline of shellfish populations, describes the swarms of crabs he has seen in the last few years like something from a horror movie.
“They just boil out of the water,” he said.
In recent years, clammers say the rapid growth of the green crabs along sections of Maine’s coast has ravaged shellfish populations, particularly mussels and soft-shell clams.
There is concern now that even Maine’s lobster industry may be at risk.
The crabs, previously held at bay by long, cold winters, have swelled in number in the past couple of decades because of rising water temperatures that no longer keep their populations in check.
The Freeport-funded project now has more than a month of work under its belt, stewarded by town clammers and lobstermen at the direction of scientists. And while the project focuses on green crabs, it will also gather and analyze data on the impact of other factors believed to be contributing to the decline of clam populations: ocean acidification, which dissolves clam shells, and disease.
Read the full story at the Bangor Daily News>>