Invaders on Our Shores


Don’t call them “illegal aliens.” It’s politically incorrect.

They are, however, transgressing, and they are nothing if not alien. And let’s be honest: They are costing us dearly. They’re draining us of our resources. They’re already undermining our quality of life. If we don’t turn them back, what we leave behind for our children and grandchildren will be a pale shadow of what we had the privilege of enjoying. If we don’t find a way to put a stop to this toxic influx, they will destroy our entire way of life. Bounty and blessing will be but bittersweet memory, thanks to these newcomers who — let’s face it — don’t belong here.

I refer, of course, to green crabs.

These wretched little savages are a scourge, an invasive species gobbling up our clams, our mussels, our oysters, our scallops — basically, all my favorite foods, except for Taco Bell. These greedy greenies feast first on the baby bivalves, diminishing our future harvests; then they move on to the adult animals, which really offends me, because they’re eating my next dinner out. (Along the way, they’re gobbling up the food sources for other species as well.) Green crabs even eat lobsters, attacking their vulnerable joints. When they run out of seafood, they move on to the eelgrass — which is really cruel, because eelgrass is the nursery bed for baby crustaceans. Who destroys a baby’s bed? I’ll tell you who. Green crabs, that’s who.

Such a creature can get out of control fast, especially since a female green crab looks ultra-hot to a male green crab, and this species is notoriously lax about birth control: A single green crab strumpet produces 185,000 eggs at a time. Sadly, nothing in Ipswich Bay craves a 185,000-egg omelet. So the sheer numbers of green crabs are overrunning our waters.

I put two dead fish in a crab trap, lowered it into the water near Crane Beach on a Sunday morning, and pulled up more than 500 green crabs ten hours later. (See the amateur video at The fish were picked glistening-clean, the bones left brilliant-white and smooth. If I’d put six or eight fish carcasses in there, I might easily have snagged 2,000 of the devilish little deviants.

This summer, the Town of Ipswich took the initiative to offer a green-crab-trapping bounty, officially designed to take more than 22 tons of the green gremlins out of Ipswich waters, “enabling juvenile clams to mature for harvesting in future years.” But a lovesick green crab throws back a couple beers and 22 tons of babies happen before you know it. We need an even broader approach to green crab trapping: Throw the crab-trap doors open and let everyone in Ipswich climb on board! Every kid in town should have a crab trap; every family should be tossing one into the water: “Hey, kids! Look at this!” This should be a beloved pastime in Ipswich. Crab-killing contests. “Krab Killers Are King” T-shirts. A huge green crab boil on the Town Common at the Farmers Market every Friday. (“Grill a green on the Green”?) Yes, green crabs are generally too small to be economical as a food source. But I took some of my catch to Chris Tighe, the brilliant mad-scientist chef at Salt Kitchen on Market Street, and he turned them into a scrumptious crab stock, with no special magic tricks required. (He was thrilled, because crab stock is normally one of the most painfully expensive ingredients in his arsenal.)

Meanwhile, any crabs not cooked can be composted. Appleton Farms will take them. But we buried the remainder of my 508 green crabs in our backyard, and our crabapple tree has found new life. It cried out to me last night: “Thank you, dear human! Thank you for sharing the life of the crab! Oh, the greenness!”

If we think creatively, green crabs might also have the potential to bring our town together, healing painful wounds of controversy. We could give everyone in Ipswich a choice: You pay $500 toward a school budget override, or you trap the equivalent in green crabs: 2,500 pounds.

Either choice you make, you’re helping to prevent the Decline and Fall of Ipswich.


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