BRUNSWICK, Maine — A Maine College of Art student’s animated video is raising awareness about the devastating impact of green crabs on the soft-shell clam industry.
Hanji O’Chang of O’Chang Comics, an artist and student at Maine College of Art, worked with University of Maine at Machias professor Brian Beal, scientist Darcie Couture of Resource Access International LLC, the Maine Clammers Association and others to learn about the “voracious army” of green crabs preying on soft-shell clams up and down the Maine coast.
“Attack of the Green Crabs,” a 4½-minute video written and narrated by Adam O’Chang and now posted on YouTube, “really nailed all the details,” Couture said Wednesday.
Beal concurred, adding, “I can’t stop watching it.”
“In 2012, soft-shell clams were Maine’s third-most valuable seafood species,” the video explains amid ominous sound effects. “Unfortunately, one survey in Brunswick found that 40 percent of the clams have disappeared since 2011. With crabs rapidly gobbling up young clams, in two to three years there may not be any clams left to harvest in many places. Some researchers now worry that the ravenous crustacean may someday get a hankering for the state’s most prized fishery, the lobster.”
Beal and Couture work with clammers in Freeport and Brunswick, respectively, to protect clams from the crabs and to figure out how to keep the industry going in the wake of ocean acidification.
In Brunswick, “predatory fencing” has been installed in an attempt to protect the clams from further devastation by the green crabs.
Five different studies to control further green crab infestation are underway in Freeport. Among them are a trial in which researchers will use netting to see if they can keep the crabs out of penned flats.
Delayed because of a cold spring, researchers have just begun to renew their battle against the invasive species. After a long winter, no one is quite sure yet what they’ll find.
As the video notes, a past infestation of green crabs from Europe subsided after particularly cold winters. However, researchers believe that the current infestation might be a more cold-resistant strain.
“We’re kind of anxiously waiting to see what the status is going to be,” said Couture.