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Green crabs: Businesses turn invasive species into food, drink items

These businesses are trying out new solutions to reduce the population
Green Crabs: An invasive species used in food, drinks to help reduce their population
Posted at 9:24 AM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 12:15:26-04

Inside Botanica Restaurant and Gin Bar, something you wouldn't normally find at a restaurant is being prepped.

“They have a great flavor," said Brendan Vesey, the restaurant's chef and owner.

Vesey is talking about green crabs.

“We knew green crabs were a big problem here,” Vesey said.

He decided to put them on the menu. Not only because they are an invasive species in the U.S., but also because the population is growing, and harvesting them for food is one way to help keep those numbers at bay.

"Just having people think about it and hear about it is a reason to kind of try something new. It gets people excited about the restaurant, it gets them thinking more about their impact as a diner,” Vesey said.

These small crustaceans are also harming the oyster and mussel populations nearby.

“One green crab can eat about 40 mussels a day,” Vesey said.

It’s not just the green crab. Biologist Richard Primack said invasive species are becoming more of a problem everywhere.

“It’s a concern because these species are displacing native species and altering the ecosystem often in negative ways,” Primack, a professor of plant ecology at Boston University, said.

He said we are seeing more invasive species than before.

“In part, because people are moving around, plants and animals more than in the past,” he said. “But also the environment is being altered by human activity.”

The green crab is just one example.

“The green crab has been around for 200 years. Suddenly, in the last few decades, it has become a lot more common and that's because the conditions are changing,” Primack said.

“Our winters aren't getting that cold anymore and so their numbers are just magnifying,” Will Robinson, a distiller in product development at Tamworth Distilling & Mercantile, said.

So, Robinson took inspiration from other regions of the country.

“I was familiar with the lionfish effort that's been going on down in the Florida Keys, and Asian Carps in the Midwest. They're turning more and more toward local businesses to get them to offer these delectable invasive species,” he explained.

If you thought the idea of eating green crabs was exotic, Robinson took it a step further. With the help of chemistry, he infused green crab broth into whiskey.

“It was kind of a way to bring ick, something that feels good environmentally, all this stuff together to bring more awareness to an issue,” he said.

While Crab Trapper whiskey and elegant crab-featured dishes might not be for you, the hope of these local businesses is to educate more people on how they can help the immediate environment around them.

“We are not going to eat our way out of this problem, but maybe we can spread some information and someone else will come up with an interesting solution,” Vesey said.