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Limits for Green Crab Increased, Taking Oregon Coast Sea Stars Illegal

Published 03/21/22 at 5:55 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Limits for Green Crab Increased, Taking Oregon Coast Sea Stars Illegal

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(Oregon Coast) – Some changes in what can and can't be harvested along the Oregon coast may surprise some. (Photo above courtesy Washington Sea Grant / UW)

Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission this week voted to change some key laws, including that harvesting of sea stars is no longer permitted. That won't come as much of surprise to anyone, since their numbers have drastically been depleted since 2013's Sea Star Wasting Disease.

What may be a revelation to some, however, is that the limits for harvesting European green crabs have been upped considerably to a daily bag number of 35, more than triple what they were. Even more surprising: work done by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has shown the green crab to be quite tasty.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) made the announcements this week.

All along the Pacific coast – including Oregon and the Washington coastline – populations of sea stars plummeted when the disease hit nearly a decade, causing the commercial harvesting of the sea star to be unlawful in 2014. Scientists believe ocean conditions, including a warming climate, resulted in the mass die-off.

Now, simply taking them away from their tidepool or rocky domain is illegal, though the allowable take beforehand had been 10 in aggregate, which included any other marine invertebrates (such as urchins, shore crabs). ODFW said it did believe that individuals taking them out of their habitat was a significant threat, but the low population demanded further action.

When it came to the non-native European green crab, this is considered an invasive species that has been in the Oregon coast region for a long time. As some have put it: “they're not going anywhere.” They are considered a threat to native shellfish, disrupting the populations of crabs, clams, oysters, etc. Thus authorities felt it would be helpful to increase the daily bag limit from 10 to 35. The commission is hoping this encourages a greater harvest.

In increasingly greater numbers,recreational shellfish enthusiasts from around the Oregon coast have been reporting catching the green crab more and more, and many have voiced support for harvesting them.

“Crabbers should know that European green crab can exhibit remarkable variation in color but are easily identified by three prominent bumps between their eyes and five spines along the side of their carapace,” ODFW said.

You can see more on identifying the green crab at this ODFW link.

NOAA research done on the green crab on the East Coast is working towards creating a larger commercial market for the green crab. Restaurants there are utilizing the species as a dish has found them popular and tasty.

The Commission also issued new regulations for commercial bay clam fisheries, which included switching from paper to electronic fish tickets and other caps on commercial gaper clam diving in Newport's Yaquina Bay.

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Above: National Weather Service satellites showing crabbing fleet from space

Crabbing boats off Cannon Beach, photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium

Bandon. Photo Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more


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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees nearly 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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