Scientists and the Government of the Balearic Islands are working together on a major biological/environmental problem as a crustacean invader from thousands of miles away has colonised the waters of Mallorca.
It's the Blue Crab (Callinete sapidus) which normally lives in the seas and waterways of North America and is believed to have found its way into the Mediterranean by hitching a lift on the giant cargo ships which ply the route. The crafty crustacean is thought to have been sucked into the ballast tanks of the ships over there, and then flushed out over here!
The problem that the crabs bring is that they are pretty much invincible; the eat almost everything, they can live in salt and fresh water, and they have very few natural predators – only eels, rays and octopus are on the list.
Well, just like when the seemingly invincible Martians invaded earth, a surprise chink in the armour of the crabs has been discovered. They're delicious! They also fetch a high price in the seafood markets, so the shellfish fishers are champing at the bit to start pulling them out of the water and getting them onto the best restaurants' tables asap.
But they can't. The Blue Crab has to be on an official list of creatures which can be caught by the fishermen and being new to our shores it isn't. A study by scientists at the University of the Balearic Islands (photo) has to be made and it looks likely that the crab will be declared an alien, rather than invasive, species.
This is still bad news for the crabs, but good for us, as over in Tarragona, where this process has already been completed, over 40 tons have been sent to market this year, and that's a lot of crab sandwiches!
So, we can help our native creatures by eating this tasty yet voracious crustacean. Buen provecho!