Blue Crabs Threaten Italy’s Seafood Industry

Italy Overrun With Blue Crabs

Blue Crabs. Credit: Alex/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Could the invasion of voracious blue crabs threaten one of Italy’s iconic pasta dishes?

On Saturday, Italy’s agriculture minister, Francesco Lollobrigida, visited the Po river delta in northern Italy, announcing the government’s decision to allocate €2.9m (£2.5m) to combat a spread of aggressive blue crabs, originally from the western Atlantic, that has beleaguered the nation’s position as a leading producer of clams, writes Sky News, Tuesday, August 8.

The alarming invasion across several Italian lagoon-like locations has targeted local shellfish, fish roe, and other marine organisms. Clam farms in the delta of the Po river have faced significant losses, with a marine biologist informing Reuters the preceding week that up to 90 per cent of young clams were consumed by the crabs, devastating potential future yields.

The rapid reproduction of these crabs remains a mystery, with some experts suggesting a possible connection to climate change. The funding of €2.9m is designated for fishing cooperatives and aquafarmers to launch a comprehensive fishing crusade.

In areas afflicted by the invasion, fishermen were encouraged to capture as many blue crabs as possible to reduce their population.

‘Crab invasion “could be linked to climate change”‘, mentioned Emanuele Rossetti, from the Fishermen’s Cooperative of the Polesine, part of the Po delta valley, to Reuters, noting that 12 tonnes of crab were being caught daily with minimal effect on the overall population.

Sasa Raicevich, a marine aquatic resources expert from the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), stated that blue crabs probably entered Italy through shipping bilge water.

‘There could be a link to climate change, but we have no evidence to say it for sure,’ he added, cautioning about severe ecological and economic consequences and emphasising that total eradication was impossible. ‘We have to contain them and find ways of coexistence… it’s going to be difficult,’ he concluded.

With Italy’s standing as Europe’s largest producer of clams and ranking third globally, after China and South Korea, according to 2021 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation statistics, the influx of crabs endangers the much-loved Italian dish – spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams).

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.