Got crabs? Eat them!

There’s a tide of unwanted foreigners hitching a ride on ships to Britain. No, I haven’t gone over all Daily Mail; the invaders are Asian shore crabs.

Asian shore crab.
Asian shore crab spotted in Britain. Notice his distinctive banded legs, report him to the MBA, then eat the little bastard. Image by Martin Burke.

They’re a highly aggressive non-native species – well, they’re only five centimetres wide so they’re not going to take your finger off or anything, but they’re astonishingly quick to set up on new coasts, eat their way through the local shellfish, and displace the natives (don’t feel too sorry for our native shore crab though – they are themselves a highly invasive pest in other parts of the world).

So far, there have been just two sightings of the Asian shore crab on the UK mainland, but it’s rife along the northern coast of France, and when it established itself on the east coast of the US it took only seven years to conquer 650 kilometres of coastline.

But there they have a novel solution to the hostile takeover; eat them. At Eat the Invaders, recipes for Asian shore crab sit among suggestions for lionfish sushi, wild boar sausages and sautéed sow thistle. From foragers to blue-plate specials and high-end restaurants, everyone is getting in on the act of consuming the conquerors.

So what about here in the UK? When I talked to the Museum’s crab expert Dr Paul Clark about what the public should do if they spot the non-native crab, his true feelings were they should crush and kill them, but he didn’t think that was a particularly PC thing to say.  For now, he is just asking for people to report sightings to the Marine Biological Association, so they can investigate and try to ‘control’ the invasion.

Once the crab is established though, Dr Clark says they will be nearly impossible to eradicate. Eat the Invaders admits that while their efforts are unlikely to eradicate an invasive species, they are at least making more room for natives and bringing some level of control.

This little guy climbed my leg in Hyde Park. I found him seriously cute. Other people find this photo horrifying.

Perhaps Britain’s most famous invaders though, grey squirrels, have been the target of a consumption campaign. I found an article from 2008 that suggests squirrel was flying off the shelves, thanks to its ‘green’ and ‘patriotic’ credentials, but admitted it was likely to remain a ‘niche’ market. As much as I want to do my duty and reduce the harm caused by invasive species, I actually have rather a soft spot for the cheeky grey…

If you do happen to spot an Asian shore crab though, my recommendation is report it, then cook it. They’re good with Tabasco, apparently.

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