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   Eriocheir sinensis (crustacean)    
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         General Impact

    For a detailed account of the environmental impacts of E. sinensis please read: Eriocheir sinensis (Chinese Mitten Crab) Impacts Information. The information in this document is summarised below.

    Ecosystem Change: Adult crabs migrate out of freshwater systems to reproduce and die in estuaries. This may constitute a substantial vehicle for exporting biomass out of the freshwater ecosystems, which may impact the food web, particularly when very large densities of crabs are migrating (Rudnick and Resh 2005)

    Reduction in Native Biodiversity: is an opportunistic omnivore which will consume aquatic plants, algae, detritus, fish eggs and a variety of macroinvertebrates (Panning 1939; Hoestlandt 1948; Gollasch 1999; Rudnick et al. 2003).

    Predation: The predation on fish eggs might be of concern (CMCWG 2003, in Veilleux & de Lafontaine 2007); however, given that fish material made up only 2.4 % of crab gut contents analyzed in Germany (Thiel 1938, in Veilleux & de Lafontaine 2007), the impact on adult fish populations is presumably low. E. sinensis could also reduce populations of native invertebrates through predation and alter the structure of benthic communities (Normant et al. 2002).

    Competition: The crab's consumption of native species, including macroalgae, invertebrates and fish may result in significant declines in these species as well as in the crab's competitors (Gollasch 2006). Crayfish species, particularly rare or endangered ones, could be negatively affected by very abundant crab populations because of the freshwater habitat and diet shared by both species (Veldhuizen and Stanish 1999, Rudnick et al. 2000, in Veilleux & de Lafontaine 2007).

    Threat to Endangered Species: The Chinese mitten crab's impact on endangered salmonids in California is of concern (IEP undated).

    Physical disturbance: Burrowing activity of crabs results in damage to dikes and increased river embankment erosion (Gollasch 2006). The significant amount of sediment removed in areas with high densities of burrows can cause weakening and even collapse of banks (Panning 1938, D. Rudnick Pers. Obs., in Rudnick Halat & Resh 2000). This burrowing is of particular concern where waterways are controlled by human-made levees; weakening or destruction of such levees from extensive burrowing could pose serious threats to flood control and water supply efforts (Rudnick Halat & Resh 2000).

    Economic/Livelihoods: The monetary impact caused by this invader in German waters is approximately 80 million Euro since 1912 (cost calculation adjusted from Fladung Pers. Comm., in Gollasch 2006). In general economic concerns arise over the stealing of bait by the crab and the damage to fishing gear (Panning 1939; Rudnick & Resh 2002). In California (USA) E. sinensis has become a major nuisance to anglers, taking a variety of baits including ghost shrimp and shad (Washington Sea Grant Program 2000). E. sinensis reproduces and migrates in such numbers as to block water intakes in irrigation and water supply schemes. Large numbers of downstream migrating crabs become trapped in holding tanks meant to keep fish out of turbines of water diversion plants. This has increased fish mortality and high costs are required to prevent the crabs' entry (Siegfried 1999).

    Human Health: Effects on human health in Europe are not reported, however, the crab is the second intermediate host for human lung fluke parasite (Paragonimus westermanii) in Asia (Gollasch 2006).

    Bioaccumlulation: E. sinensis has the potential to bioaccumulate inorganic and organic contaminants that then may be passed up the food chain (Rudnick Halat & Resh 2000). This type of bioaccumulation has been documented in E. sinensis populations in Asia (Che and Cheung 1998, in Rudnick et al 2000).




         Location Specific Impacts:
    Estonia English 
    Economic/Livelihoods: Socio-economic impacts due to the Chinese mitten crab have been reported in Estonia (NOBANIS 2006).

    Ecosystem change: Abiotic changes due to the Chinese mitten crab have been reported in Estonia (NOBANIS 2006).
    Germany English 
    Economic/Livelihoods: The impact of this invader became especially clear during its mass occurrences in German waters in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1980s and 1990s. Please follow this link for details on economic impacts of the spread of the crab Financial impacts (Dr. Gollasch 2005, in preparation). In total mass developments were reported for approximately 30 years (Fladung pers. comm.).
    In the 1930s, 1940s and 1990s, attempts were undertaken to catch and destroy as many crabs as possible. This implied labour costs and some catchment gear production at the German Rivers Elbe and Havel. During mass occurrences crabs were, and continue to be, sold for 1 to 3 € /kg to the industry e.g. for industrial use and for direct human consumption (Asian markets). During 1994-2004 crabs in the value of approximately 3,000,000 to 4,500,000 € were sold (Gollasch 2005, in preparation).
    Latvia English 
    Economic/Livelihoods

    Ecosystem change
    San Francisco Bay (Estuary) (United States (USA)) English 
    Disease transmission: The mitten crab poses a potential human health threat. It is an intermediate host for the Oriental lung fluke, and mammals, including humans, can become infested by eating raw or poorly cooked mitten crabs (Washington Sea Grant Program, 2000).

    Economic/Livelihoods: Commercial and recreational fishing operations have been hindered due to bait stealing and damage to gear and the catch by the crab (Panning 1939; Rudnick and Resh 2002). In California, the mitten crab has also interfered with operations at federal and state water diversion plants; in years with high abundances of crabs, large numbers of downstream-migrating mitten crabs have become trapped in holding tanks meant to keep fish out of turbines, and have caused high fish mortalities and high costs associated with preventing the crab's entry (Siegfried 1999).

    Habitat alteration: Juvenile Eriocheir sinensis form dense colonies of burrows in the intertidal portions of streams, and this process has undermined the integrity of stream banks and levees in Europe and the US (Peters and Panning 1933; Dutton and Conroy 1998; Rudnick et al. 2003).

    Modification of natural benthic communities: The mitten crab likely impacts freshwater and estuarine food webs at many levels, as it has an opportunistic diet that includes algae, detritus, and a variety of benthic macroinvertebrates (Panning 1939; Hoestlandt 1948; Gollasch 1999; Rudnick et al. 2003).

    Threat to endangered species: The predation of Eriocheir sinensis on endangered salmonids threatens their populations in California (IEP, undated).



ISSG Landcare Research NBII IUCN University of Auckland