Mitten Crab Watch

A mitten crab sitting on rocks

Image credit: GBNNSS

At a glance

Record Chinese mitten crabs

Type of activity: outdoors in UK

Who can take part? Anyone

When? All year round

Where? Tidal rivers and estuaries around the UK

How long will it take? No set time

Chinese mitten crabs are an invasive species whose spread in the UK requires continuous updating. Everyone can monitor their distribution by reporting sightings.

These crafty crustaceans damage riverbanks, compete with native species, block water outlets and damage fishing gear such as nets with their claws. They live in rivers, canals and estuaries, so are mostly likely to be encountered by anglers, and other users of waterways.

Background

Originating in South East Asia, the first mitten crab  was recorded in the UK in 1935 in the River Thames at Chelsea. By the 1990s they had become well-established in the River Thames. Subsequently other river catchments including the Humber, Medway, Tyne, Wharfe and Ouse have recorded mitten crab populations.

How to identify a Chinese mitten crab

They are the only crab found in freshwater but may be confused with native species in coastal habitats. 

Mitten crabs can be identified by the following features:

  • Grey-green to dark brown body
  • Dense brown 'fur' (may be absent in juveniles) on the white-tipped claws
A mitten crab on a colourful plate

Chinese mitten crab legs can span a 25cm dinner plate.

A detailed section of the Chinese mitten crab (Eriosheir sinensis) showing the furry claw.

The white-tipped claws of mitten crabs are covered in ‘fur’.

There is more information on how to identify mitten crabs on the Mitten Crab Watch website and an identification sheet provided by the Non-Native Species Secretariat (NNSS), or watch their video below:

 

For more information on this species, see the NNSS website.

How to record your sightings

If you see a mitten crab, make a note of when and where it was and take a photograph. You can submit your sighting using an online form or by email to: recording@mba.ac.uk

Results so far

Over 800 records have been submitted so far and these confirm that the mitten crab is extending its range in the UK. Since 2020 the crab has been found in the River Severn and Morecambe Bay area.

An interactive map of Chinese mitten crab records can be viewed on the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas.

Project team

Partner organisations

  • Welsh Government
  • Tyne Rivers Trust
  • Royal Holloway University of London
  • Natural Resources Wales
  • Newcastle University
  • Marine Biological Association

Project sponsors