The Atlantic blue crab species has arrived in the Mediteranean as sea temperatures rise, and is now being spotted frequently on beaches near Lecce, in the Salento area.
Local authorities urged holidaymakers in the area, which is famed for its popular beach resorts, to report any sightings and keep children away from the large crabs, which have particularly sharp claws and spiny shells.
“Knowing the aggressiveness of this alien species, I thought it was appropriate to signal its presence so that bathers pay close attention to it, keeping an eye on children who, mistaking it for a common native crab, could be injured by the force of its sharp claws and the presence of sharp thorns on its carapace,” stated Primula Meo, vice president of the local Ata-PC Lecce association for civil protection and the protection of animals.
The blue crab species is not native to southern Italy. Photo: Depositphotos
He said the crab species was “colonising our seas due to the intensification of trans-oceanic maritime traffic and the increase in temperature.”
Experts say the blue crab threatens native biodiversity as it is able to prey on other crustaceans and fish, and is even known to destroy nets and other fishing equipment.
Maurizio Pinna, ecology researcher at the University of Salento, told La Gazzetta del Mezziogiorno that the crab species originates n the Gulf of Mexico.
“The increase in temperature and the absence of natural predators facilitates the ability of this species to increase its number and cover an increasingly large area, now invading even the bathing areas,” he said.
The crabs have been in parts of the Mediterranean for decades, and were first sighted in Egyptian waters in the 1940s.
Though the crab is not problematic in other parts of the world, in the Mediterranean it's an invasive species seen as a serious threat to native wildlife, biodiversty, and fishing.
The crabs are however known for their sweet, delicate meat, and many coastal communities in the Mediterranean have found ways to use the crustacean as a source of food and income.