Brussels Urged to Address Invasion of Blue Crab
The European Commission has been called upon to play its role in tackling the invasion of the blue crab in the Mediterranean Sea by providing additional funds to aquaculture producers affected by the predatory species.
This is reported by Euractiv.
A new aggressive species, originating from the western Atlantic, has spread in the Mediterranean Sea, posing a threat to local fishing operators along the Adriatic coastline.
The blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) is flourishing in lagoon-like areas in Italy, such as the Po River Delta and the neighboring Venice, where it preys on bivalve mollusks like clams, mussels, and oysters, as well as fish eggs and other aquatic life. These crab predators are damaging the livelihoods of about 3,000 family businesses engaged in mussel farming in the region, which has contributed to making Italy the largest mussel producer in Europe.
In a priority parliamentary question, Paola Ghidoni, a Member of the European Parliament from the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, asked the Commission whether they plan to "support aquaculture and fishing companies affected by the consequences of the spread of the blue crab in Italy with special funds."
The EU has a dedicated fund for fisheries, the European Maritime, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF), designed to support actions that enhance the resilience of the EU's fishing sector, including crisis measures to address temporary disruptions. Additional support to combat the impact of invasive species is also available through the EU's environmental and climate program and cohesion funds—a principal EU investment policy to address regional disparities.
In August, the Italian government issued a decree allocating €2.9 million to aquaculture companies and fishermen engaged in the capture and disposal of invasive species.
"Now is the time for Brussels to intervene: supporting companies in dire straits and aiding in the protection of the biodiversity of the Po River Delta is also the Commission's task," said Ghidoni, commenting on her parliamentary inquiry submitted on Tuesday, August 29.
According to the MEP, the blue crab invasion also poses a serious threat to a valuable ecological resource. "Mussels, mollusks, and oysters can absorb up to 254 grams of carbon dioxide per kilogram during their life cycle," she continued.
In Albania, on the opposite Adriatic shore from the Italian coastline, concerns over blue crabs were first raised in 2020. Considered one of the top 100 invasive species in the region, they disrupted the balance of local populations, leading to a decrease and disappearance of certain other species, including local crabs. Their impact is also felt on local bivalve mollusks, including the clam.
Global warming is exacerbating the situation, providing conditions in which crabs can thrive.
Fishermen report harvesting up to 300 kg of blue crab daily, compared to the 5-6 kg of fish they can sell each day. There is little demand for them in Albania, and 1 kg costs about 40 cents.
Spase Shumka, a lecturer at the Agricultural University of Tirana and hydrology expert, stated that they are found in large quantities in fishing nets and that "the blue crab population has thrived in all coastal waters of Albania."
A 2014 Regulation on Invasive Alien Species (IAS) provides the EU framework for actions against human-introduced invasive aquatic species to preserve continental biodiversity and marine ecosystems.
In March, the Commission initiated a risk assessment, a necessary step before considering the inclusion of the blue crab among the so-called invasive alien species that concern the Union.
However, this list was updated last time in 2022, which means that a new update with the inclusion of the blue crab could take place in 2024 at the earliest as, on average, the list is refreshed every 2 to 3 years.