Extensive, criminal, worrisome, huge, serious, problem: these are a few of the choice words Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) projects manager Harvey Jarvis uses to describe the state of the green crab infestation in Placentia Bay.
The invasive species was first reported in North Harbour in 2007. Since then, the fight for a handle on the situation has only just begun.
The mitigation attempt in Placentia Bay has been centred in North Harbour. In the past year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has conducted surveys there to determine the extent of the problem.
In 2008 a few local fishermen were provided licences to remove as many crabs as possible from the harbour. In five weeks they caught approximately 500,000.
Right now there are locations in Placentia Bay where some fish harvesters are doing voluntary survey work for DFO, but the $10,000 received for this year's removal initiative has been exhausted.
Over a period of three weeks this summer, 85,000 green crabs were taken from the water in North Harbour. The project wasn't as wide-ranging as last year's as the main concern was getting rid of those about to spawn.
The catch rates have been so high it leads Jarvis to believe there's a pending disaster in Placentia Bay.
"It's causing problems with eel grass. All the eelgrass in North Harbour is pretty much gone. They're proven to affect lobster larvae. The lobster population in the bay is quite different than it used to be."
North Harbour is just one part of the huge infestation in Placentia Bay.
Jarvis is aware there's no ridding the sea of these creatures now, but firmly believes a more aggressive plan of attack is necessary in order to salvage what remains on the bay floor.
"If we had a concentrated effort then we could make a difference. At this point that's the best we can hope for with this infestation - that we make a difference and keep the population at a livable level."
The FFAW has been fighting to get the right people to pay attention to the problem.
"Up to now the only good stewards out there have been harvesters. Other users in the bay have completely ignored the problem. We haven't got much help from Canadian government agencies like Environment Canada. There's no response or involvement at all. It's a pretty sad commentary actually.
"Harvesters should not be footing the bill for cleaning up this mess."
Jarvis suggests everyone should be pitching in on the effort to prevent this catastrophe, including Marine Atlantic, the transshipment terminal, the oil refinery and all the industrial users of the bay.
"The voluntary effort on the part of the harvesters shows that they're concerned and they're willing to spend their own money, time and effort to help map the problem but it's about time the regulatory people and the industrial users in these areas step up to the plate and be try to take some action."
DFO convened a workshop in early 2008 to discuss the green crab issue. In attendance were representatives of DFO, the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Transport Canada, Placentia Integrated Management Committee and the FFAW.
It was deemed at that meeting the problem had to be dealt with. The FFAW was tasked with putting together an action plan proposal, and it did. But, Jarvis explains, when the time came to get people involved, everyone disappeared with the exception of DFA and DFO Science.
"There were commitments from others but there was such a long list of criteria that had to be met before they would come up with the funding we would be working at it for years before we get anything done, so we went ahead with DFO and DFA funding last year."
While they haven't been back at the table since, very soon the FFAW will be taking another crack at a meeting and trying to move forward with tackling the green crab invasion.
"We've spent a couple of years doing some science and the time right now is for action."
The green crab, native to Europe, makes its way to North American waters as larvae, travelling in the ballast of large ships. The larvae will survive weeks in the water hold and once the ballast is dumped, they move with the currents to the coast.
The crab has made its mark from Maine to Vancouver Island, devastating shellfish populations.
Maritime provinces have been dealing with infestations for several years. Most of the shallow bays and estuaries of Nova Scotia and along the shores of Prince Edward Island have been invaded.
According to Harvey Jarvis of the FFAW, it's a serious environmental problem that will only get worse given time.
The green crab burrows deep into the ground seeking out clams, destroying fish habitats on the ocean floor such as eelgrass beds and kelp.
Unlike in its native habitat, the green crab has no natural predator in these parts. It leaves a path of devastation, with few or no survivors remaining after an infestation takes hold.
The green crab is superior in strength and agility to all other crabs found along the shores of Newfoundland. No other crustaceans can co-exist with them once they move in and take over; nothing else stands a chance. Mussels, oysters, scallops and even lobster stand to be consumed.
According to Jarvis, the green crab has been discovered in Bay St. George as far as nine miles inland, living in fresh water. They appear to be thriving.