The blue crab, the archenemy of the Albanian hunters, breeds in the waters of this small country in the Balkans, toppling fish and nets due to climate change and the movement of maritime navigation.

These crustaceans, originating from the western Atlantic, began to be observed in large numbers on the coast of Albania on the Adriatic Sea as of 2006, and scientists consider them an invasive and harmful species of endemic marine biodiversity, as well as socio-economic activity.

In Karavasta Lagoon, south of Tirana, a site that includes swamps, a sea, estuaries and canals, the fisherman, Samir Khojah, 44, regrets the existence of these "colonial" crustaceans that were called blue crab because of the color of their celestial blue fist, which is as damaging as it is beautiful.

"Day after day, fish becomes scarce, as it robs us of our daily strength," said the fisherman who supports a family of five.

His colleague, Stylian Keisha (40 years old), shows his injured fingers as a result of this crab, which damages nets and equipment.

"She is very aggressive and she is a real curse," he says. This year we notice the spread of this crab wherever it is on the beach and on the high seas and even in the inland waters, the river and the lakes. The damage is severe. ”

The numbers of sea bass and Sultan Ibrahim decreased, while the eels were totally disappeared, as the two fishermen confirmed. The crab tears the fish even inside the nets.

Millions of eggs

Samir Beirai, professor of aquatic biology at the University of Tirana, says fishermen are right to be concerned because of the large increase in the species from which the female lays millions of eggs.

This species, known scientifically as "Kalinectis sapidus", was present off the coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico to Argentina, but it spread in other regions of the world through the ballast water of ships.

He explains: "Climate warming provides the conditions for the presence of alien species in places where conditions, especially heat, were not favorable a few years ago." Today, the blue crab is among the more than 100 types of gas on average and Adriatic.

The university professor adds: "It has disturbed the natural equilibrium between the endemic species, which led to the decline or extinction of some species, especially the local crab."

It damages the seagrass, which is an incubator for local fish, and devours shells and slugs that make them strong.

The blue crab attacks even the birds, according to the accounts of Samir Khojah.

Fishermen say that on some days they get 300 kilograms of blue crab in exchange for five or six kilograms of fish.

The sun is a weapon

While some gourmets love the meat of these crustaceans because of their distinctive taste, their consumption is not considered widespread in Albania, and the kilogram is sold for forty cents of the euro in exchange for 14 euros for Sultan Ibrahim.

Unfortunately, we do not have a market for this crab, Bessemer Khojah said. It is also prohibited to export these non-frozen products to the European Union.

Bessemer and Stilbyan look helpless at a pile of crabs trapped in their nets or stuck in a dam on a water channel in the hope of trapping fish.

"We are facing a daily challenge with the blue crab to see who will fish before, but this morning the crab also won the battle," Stellian said bitterly.

Pending the authorities ’move, fishermen use the sun as a weapon, in addition to their physical strength, as they transport the blue crab to land to make it spend.

"We throw it away so that the crab does not lay eggs in the sea," said 27-year-old fisherman Adrian Kula unloading a bucket of crustaceans on other dead shells. "This is all we can do ... make it degrade in the sun."

"We must move quickly to find solutions because it will be difficult in the near future to control this widespread invasion, such as the Corona virus," the young fisherman added.

These crustaceans, originally from the western Atlantic Ocean, began observing in large numbers since 2006.

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