A federal government invasive species expert believes the Asian crab found Monday in Cootes Paradise was deliberately released, possibly for religious reasons, by someone who smuggled the creature into Canada.
Becky Cudmore, of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, says it’s the only reasonable explanation for the sudden appearance of the adult Chinese Mitten Crab that was found at the Cootes Paradise Fishway Monday.
In some belief systems, she says, if you release “a very highly valued organism, a long-lived organism or hardy organism into the wild … it provides points for your karma afterlife.”
The crab was found at the Cootes Paradise Fishway by Royal Botanical Gardens workers. The fishway, between Hamilton Harbour and Cootes Paradise on the Desjardins Canal, is designed to keep carp out of Cootes marsh and allow other native, desirable fish species to pass through.
Cudmore feels the crab could not have been accidentally introduced to Hamilton Harbour through ballast water in a ship, as is sometimes the case with invasive species, because of strict monitoring and the fact that it was an adult.
It would not have been able to survive very long in the harbour, she says, because of the harbour would have vastly different environmental conditions than would be found in Asia.
There have been 24 Chinese Mitten crabs recorded in the Great Lakes between 1965 to 2007, says Cudmore. The one found Monday is the first since 2007 in the Great Lakes and the first ever in Hamilton Harbour.
“It is a very valuable food item in some markets,” she says. However, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency does not allow the crab to be imported partly out of concern over a parasite it carries that can be harmful to human health.