The idea of harvesting the invasive Chinese Mitten Crab, currently clogging up the Thames and rapidly spreading through Britain, is taking shape, with a conference planned for March to discuss the pros and cons.
It’s been proposed to use fyke nets, as pictured above. But these long net tubes held open by hoops are also a very efficient means of trapping eels, now a threatened species in Europe. Another drawback is, if the crab fishery were an economic success, people might be tempted to introduce the Mitten Crab to new rivers. As Paul Clark, marine biologist at the Natural History Museum and conference organiser, puts it:
“We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Mitten crabs have few natural enemies capable of reducing their numbers, but the establishment of a fishery would certainly carry risks.”
In Shanghai the Mitten Crab (Eriocheir sinensis) is a delicacy. They are eaten steamed, as this best preserves the flavour and keeps the meat tender.