'High-risk invader': Vancouver Island communities want traps for invasive green crabs
SOOKE, B.C. -- As Ryan Chamberland hauls in a crab trap hand-over-hand in the Sooke Basin, he knows what will be crawling around inside once it surfaces.
"We need to control this population," Chamberland tells CTV News. "I don't think we can hope to eradicate the green crabs here."
Chamberland is on the front lines of an invasion on Vancouver Island's West Coast. Inside his trap are dozens of invasive European green crabs.
According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), European green crabs were first recorded in southwestern Vancouver Island waters in the late 90s.
Tracked since the early 2000s, the DFO says the species has spread up the West Coast in mass numbers.
"They are high-risk invaders," says federal research scientist Thomas Therriault.
"We know green crabs are predators on shell fish and small crabs, they can degrade eel grass habitat," he says.
Admissions like that have Chamberland and others with the Coastal Restoration Society worried.
The community-based organization wants action taken to control the number of green crabs before significant damage is done on the ocean's floor.
Their idea is to launch some type of mass trapping program to remove a large number of the foreign intruders.
The most pressing concern for the grassroots group is eel grass.
The quickly moving and hungry green crabs are known to decimate eel grass meadows.
Those meadows are common swimming grounds for wild salmon in B.C. waters.
"I mean, it's disturbing," said Chamberland. "When you do the research and see the devastation they have caused in other places in the world, especially to eel grass, it's scary."
On the shores of the Sooke Basin, T'Sou-ke First Nation Chief Gordon Planes supports the idea of moving from tracking to trapping.
"Do we actually have a plan in place to rectify the situation?," Planes asks. "Because I think it's going to get worse before it gets better."
In Tofino, the Coastal Restoration Society's founder says several new and large infestations have been discovered in the last few months.
"Now is the time more than ever where our federal government and the DFO needs to allocate more funding and resources than it has in the past," Josh Temple tells CTV News.
Federal scientists are open to the newly floated idea of industrial trapping, but are also wary.
"The trapping would need to be done in a way that doesn't cause more harm than good," says Therriault with the DFO
The DFO says it's open to start a discussion about green crabs with the coastal keepers on Vancouver Island's West Coast.
European green crabs are not always green, but can be identified by spotting a unique five-spine pattern behind their eyes.
The DFO is not asking for sightings to be reported on the west side of Vancouver Island, but does ask that anyone who finds one on the eastern side to report it immediately.