An increase in the Albanian blue crab population is causing anguish for local fisherman.
The crab which is native to the Atlantic started appearing in Albania’s waters over a decade ago, due to rising sea temperatures. They are particularly prevalent near the Karavasta Lagoon where they clog up fishermen’s nets and lead to a reduction in native marine life.
The blue crab is a culinary delicacy in the United States but is causing havoc in Albania. Fishermen say it is taking the fish from their nets, damaging them, and leaving them with nothing to sell. They say the crabs are very aggressive and a “real curse”.
Damage caused by these crustaceans is increasing not only on the coast but in rivers and lagoons. Fishermen say they are collecting up to 300kg of blue crab a day, compared to the 5 or 6 kg of fish they are able to sell each day.
The foreign invaders are also leading to a reduction in local stocks of red mullet, eel, and sea bass as they are disrupting the local ecosystem and delicate balance of underwater life. The crabs in their vast numbers often get to the fish before the fishermen have a chance
Sajmir Beqiraj, a professor of Hydrobiology at the University of Tirana told AFP that the crabs are a cause for concern as the females lay millions of eggs. They are considered one of the top 100 invasive species in the Mediterranean.
“Global warming is creating conditions for the presence of exotic species in places where these conditions, especially temperatures, were not favourable a few years ago,” Beqiraj said.
The blue crab “has already disrupted the natural balance of native populations, leading to the decline or even extinction of some species, especially local crabs.”
Fishermen say that while the crab is eaten elsewhere, there is no demand for it in Albania. One kg of blue crab is worth 40 cents, while red mullet is worth EUR 14. They are unable to export to the EU due to a ban on unfrozen exports so they leave the crabs in the sun to die.