N.C. Marine Fisheries asks public to report Blue Land Crab sightings

N.C. Marine Fisheries asks public to report Blue Land Crab sightings

September 24th, 2023

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is asking people to please be on the lookout for blue land crabs, Cardisoma guanhumi, and to report sightings.

Blue land crabs are non-native species to the Carolinas that look like enormous fiddler crabs.

Adult male blue land crabs have one large, powerful claw and tend to grow larger than females. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

There has been a spate of recent reports of blue land crabs spotted in North Carolina and South Carolina, and biologists are requesting public assistance to help them learn more about where the non-native species is spreading by reporting any sightings.

Blue land crabs are native to the Atlantic coast from Brazil to South Florida, but occasional sightings of the large crabs have been reported in South Carolina since 2008.

The first confirmed blue land crab sighting in North Carolina occurred in the summer of 2023. Researchers do not yet know the extent of the crab’s distribution throughout the Carolinas nor its impact on the environment and other wildlife. Whether the species arrived through natural expansion of its range or human-mediated sources is also not clear.

Despite their name, the crabs vary widely in color. Adult males tend to have the characteristic blue-gray coloring, but females can also be white or ash-gray, and juveniles can range from orangish to dark brown to purple. They’re also unusually long-lived and slow-growing among crabs, reaching maturity at four years of age and surviving up to eleven years. For more information and images please visit the Blue Land Crab Species Profile Page.

Young blue land crabs, like this male, can range in color from orange to dark brown to purple. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Blue land crabs are difficult to catch. In addition to their speed at retreating into burrows deep below ground, the crabs possess a large claw that they can use to dexterously defend themselves. If you see one of these crabs, biologists encourage you to snap a photo and report the date and the location of your sighting at the link below. Biologists suspect the crabs may be more visible following heavy rains which can drive them out of their burrows.

To report sightings, click HERE.

For more information, please contact Robert Corbett at Robert.Corbett@deq.nc.gov with the NC Division of Marine Fisheries or Bronwyn Williams Bronwyn.Williams@naturalsciences.org with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

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