Invasive Species — European Green Crab (Carcinus maenas)

Range of Spread


The European green crab is native to coastal Europe and North Africa, including the Baltic Sea in the east, Iceland and central Norway in the north. It is the most common crab throughout much of its range. It’s feeding habits and tolerance of a wide variety of environmental conditions has enabled it to occupy numerous coastal communities outside its native range. Populations are now established on both coasts of North America, as well as Australia, Argentina, Japan, and South Africa.

Carcinus maenas was first observed on the east coast of North America in Massachusetts in 1817, and can now be found as far south as Virginia, and by 2007, as far north as Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, Canada. First found on the west coast in San Francisco Bay in 1989, the European green crab has since been spread throughout the west coast, reaching as far south as north as British Columbia, Canada. In 2011, populations were detected by Fisheries and Oceans, Canada at least 100 miles north of Vancouver Island, within two embayments along coastal mainland of Queen Charlotte Sound. In June 2020, European green crab larvae were confirmed from Prince Rupert, BC. The following July, an established populations of adult invasive green crabs were found on Haida Gwaii near Queen Charlotte. Those populations significantly reduced the distance European green crab larvae had to travel in currents to arrive in Alaska.

Habitat Preference

The European green crab is tolerant of diverse climatic conditions such as temperature and salinity. They can be found in brackish water with freshwater inputs. These invasive crabs can inhabit shallow rocky intertidal areas along the shores of diverse coastal areas, including estuaries, bays, and small protected "pocket estuaries". In other areas where they are invasive, they prefer deeper shelf subtidal habitats.