The Yahoo News ,08 August 2006

2nd Chinese crab found in Chesapeake Bay

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland biologists confirmed that a second Chinese mitten crab has been found in the Chesapeake Bay, heightening worries the invasive species may have a foothold in the bay.

The second crab was found more than a year ago in the Patapsco River, the same river where the first Chinese mitten crab was confirmed. A volunteer park ranger caught the crab last year and came forward after seeing reports of the other Chinese mitten crab.

The ranger, Steve Takos, contacted the state Department of Natural Resources, which confirmed it as a second example of the invader.

"It was exactly the same thing. The same mittens and everything, but bigger than the one in the paper," Takos told The (Baltimore) Sun. "I'm sure there are others out there."

State biologist Lynn Fegley said Monday it is still unclear whether mitten crabs are living and breeding in the Patapsco. Both crabs were males. The crabs likely were inadvertently carried by a ship's ballast, she said.

"Or we could have (mitten) crabs living here at very low populations, so they are not often detected," Fegley said. "That's the lesser of the possibilities, but it can't be ruled out."

The crabs their scientific name is Eriocheir sinensis are prolific invaders. They can live in saltwater and freshwater, and though it's unclear whether they'd compete with blue crabs, they can damage riverbeds with their burrowing. Their name comes from black hair on their claws that makes it appear they're wearing mittens.

Gregory Ruiz, a marine ecologist at the Smithsonian Institution's Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, told The Washington Post that it's too soon to know what the dangers are of the Chinese invader.

"They could compete for food and habitat in some way. How that plays out, in my view, is pretty uncertain at this point," he said.

Rom Lipcius, a researcher at the Virginia Institute for Marine Science, said it's doubtful the mitten crab has established itself in the Chesapeake.

"We've done many, many surveys throughout the bay, and you'd think we'd have caught them" before, he said. "It's not likely that we have an actual resident viable population, but of course we're on the lookout."