Stowaway Crabs Threaten Biodiversity of Waters off Iceland

Ice News, an independent news resource covering Iceland, Scandinavia, and Northern Europe, reported that the Atlantic rock crab, typically native to coastal areas of North America is making its way to Icelandic waters, but not by itself. It seems they are stowaways in the ballast water of ships traveling to Iceland. The Atlantic rock crabs arrived in the cold Nordic waters sometime in 2000 and are multiplying rapidly. Researchers at the University of Iceland are worried that the crabs will quickly over-take native species and out compete other crabs.

Halldor Palmer Halldorsson of the University of Iceland’s research center worries that the crabs are only growing in size and number. Halldorsson commented,

“The crabs which have been caught are as big as some of the biggest caught in their natural habitat. The females also carry many thousands of eggs. The distribution seems to suggest that the animal is thriving.”
The Atlantic rock crabs compete for the same food sources as the native crabs and will also eat other crabs’ eggs. Compound that with the reproduction rate and the biodiversity of the cold Iceland waters will quickly begin to falter.

This summer the research center and Marine Research Institute will begin to tag the Atlantic rock crabs. By tagging the crabs they hope to see where the crabs travel and gauge just how large the individual crabs are becoming.

Though they are caught for the seafood trade off the coast of North America it has not been determined whether the crabs on the coast of Iceland can also be exploited commercially. For more news on this developing research visit Ice News at http://www.icenews.is/index.php/2011/06/27/24620/

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