Experts are hoping to learn more about how a species of crab, normally found in the warmer waters of the mid Atlantic and Gulf Coast, wound up in the New Meadows River in west Bath.
A researcher from the nonprofit group Manomet, based in Massachusetts, reportedly found a smooth mud crab while on a trip to the area earlier this month to research quahog aquaculture. Maine Department of Marine Resources spokesperson Jeff Nichols says the department has no record of that species ever having been found in Maine before.
For the aquaculture industry, its presence also poses questions: "What are the implications for our farms? And is it indicative of broader changes within the ecosystem?"
Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association, says new species can migrate, get delivered in ballast water, and make their way here as juveniles borne on ocean currents. It's still unknown how this crab came to Maine, but, however it arrived, Belle says his industry will start monitoring for its presence.
"Because crabs can be predators on juvenile shellfish, then we are particularly concerned about the occurrence of a new species, and need to work hard to understand what that species is and whether or not it's going to be a predator for the things we grow."
Belle says the industry will apply lessons learned from the arrival of the more familiar invasive green crabs, which have significantly damaged wild and farmed shellfish in the area, as well as native eelgrass.
"We will watch much more closely for this species and see whether it is having a negative impact on our farms," says Belle.