High hopes for fishing of invasive green crabs

P.E.I.'s first commercial green crab fishery is underway.

Invasive species could become lucrative commercial fishery

The aggressive green crabs have caused some problems with local species. (CBC)

P.E.I.'s first commercial green crab fishery is underway.

Fourteen fishermen have been granted licences from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to fish this invasive species until mid-November.

Not a lot of green crab has been landed so far. Fishermen believe the two recent harsh winters have knocked numbers down.
Luke Poirier has been researching how to predict when green crabs will moult, which makes them easier to eat. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

A University of Prince Edward Island researcher doing his PhD is also out catching green crab. Luke Poirier has been handing some of his catch over to Canada's Smartest Kitchen at Charlottetown's Culinary Institute of Canada. Staff there are working on recipes to help create a market for the seafood.

Poirier says chefs have been making the crab into a single-bite appetizer using Cajun-style spices.

He believes a successful soft-shelled crab fishery will be established eventually on P.E.I.

"With the species being almost now completely covering the Island, except for a few parts in the western end of the Island, the potential is there for this to be almost a secondary fishery for our fishermen here on the Island," Poirier said.

"It's a double win-win for them, in the sense that not only are they protecting the ecosystem that their primary species are in, but they're also potentially putting a few more dollars in their pockets."

A European delicacy

Green crab have been fished commercially in the Mediterranean around Venice, Italy for centuries, and Poirier travelled there in the spring to observe the fishery.

The crabs are considered a delicacy, and can sell for $150 a kilo. Poirier believes Italy could be an export market for P.E.I. green crab. 

The trick is to catch the crab in the right season, just after they have moulted. Cooked just after their hard shells have been shed, before their new shells have toughened up, green crab can be eaten whole.

Poirier was getting help from Italian fishermen at predicting the moult, and he's having a 50 per cent success rate in identifying the moult correctly in the green crab he's caught this summer on the Island.

Poirier is now waiting for a second moulting season in September.


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