Blue crabs become scourge of fishermen in Adriatic as warming sea temperatures boost their numbers

News Telegraph



e blue crab may be pretty but it has become a source of daily anguish for Albanian fishermen struggling to make ends meet, as the invasive species upsets the region’s ecosystems. N


tive to the Atlantic, the crustacean started emerging in Albania’s Adriatic waters over a decade ago, aided by warming sea temperatures. I


the marshy coastal area near the Karavasta Lagoon, the crab clogs nets and weirs, panicking fishermen who say the native marine fauna they rely on for a living are increasingly hard to find. T


e crab “takes our daily bread and even the fish in the nets… there is nothing to sell,” says Besmir Hoxha, 44, pulling one crab’s blue pincers off a small fish crushed in his net. H


s 40-year-old colleague Stilian Kisha holds up a hand streaked with cuts from his own battles. “


hey are very aggressive and clever, a real curse,” he says. “


his year we are seeing the crab everywhere, on the coast, offshore but also in inland waters, rivers and lagoons. The damage is enormous”. S


me days the men collect up to 300 kilogrammes (650 pounds) of blue crab – compared with only five to six kilos of the fish they sell on the market. S


ocks of local sea bass, red mullets and eel are disappearing, they say, as the foreign invader disrupts the delicate balance of underwater life. “


t’s a daily challenge with the crab, who will be the first to catch the fish – this morning the crabs won again,” Mr Kisha said. F


shermen are right to be worried about a species whose females each lay millions of eggs, Sajmir Beqiraj, a professor of hydrobiology at the University of Tirana, told AFP. C


llinectes sapidus, native to the Gulf of Mexico where it thrives, has spread around the world via ballast water from ships and is now among the top 100 invasive species in the Mediterranean. F

isherman Adrian Kola removes blue crabs from his fishing net. The blue crab’s colourful claws are pretty but dangerous: ripping up fishing nets and upsetting ecosystems off Albania’s coast Credit: GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP “Global warming is creating conditions for the presence of exotic species in places where these conditions, especially temperatures, were not fa

vourable a few years ago,” Prof Beqiraj said. The blue crab “has already disrupted the natural balance of native populations, leading to the decline or even extinction of some species, espe


ially local crabs.” The crustacean