Two people holding cheque in the amount of $10,000 in support of local invasive species monitoring and eradication.
Northwest Straits Foundation Executive Director Caroline Gibson (standing left) accepts a grant from Shell Puget Sound Refinery Environmental Manager Nate Biletnikoff (standing right) in the amount of $10,000 in support of local invasive species monitoring and eradication.

In an effort to provide monitoring and eradication of an invasive species threatening our local marine waters, the Shell Puget Sound Refinery is proud to announce a $10,000 grant for the Northwest Straits Foundation. The grant will be utilized to support the purchase of research equipment and monitoring of European green crabs by the Skagit County Marine Resources Committee (MRC) and its project partners. 

“This grant is perfectly timed with the 2017 field season and training for MRC members and other volunteers in the community,” said Caroline Gibson, Executive Director of the Northwest Straits Foundation. “Equipment is already on order, and citizen scientists will begin monitoring for green crabs in Padilla Bay and Fidalgo Bay near the refinery and at other sites this spring. There’s such enthusiasm that similar projects are likely to launch in adjacent counties.”

The Shell Puget Sound Refinery grant was leveraged by the Northwest Straits Foundation’s new MRC Opportunity Fund, which provides a 1:1 match to contributions for citizen science projects from individuals and businesses around the region. Application to initiate the Skagit MRC green crab project drew attention to the need for research equipment, which will be available for use by project partners elsewhere in Puget Sound.

“We are tremendously excited to partner with the Northwest Straits Foundation, and to support an important environmental protection and resource conversation program that is addressing an emerging issue in our community,” said Cory Ertel, External Relations Manager for the Shell Puget Sound Refinery.

Much credit for helping to establish this new partnership program between Shell and the Northwest Straits Foundation goes to the Puget Sound Refinery Environmental Manager Nate Biletnikoff, who is a member of the Skagit County MRC and is an Alternate on the Northwest Straits Commission. Biletnikoff encouraged the NW Straits Foundation to apply for a local Shell grant after engaging in discussions with local environmental stakeholders over the challenges associated with the local green crab population, as well as seeing how this the invasive species issue was now occurring in the marine waters nearby the Puget Sound Refinery. 

The European green crab has already invaded both coasts of North America, and was found in 2016 in Padilla Bay (Skagit County) and Westcott Bay (San Juan County). Because it feeds on juvenile crabs, oysters, clams and other shellfish, the green crab is considered a threat to Puget Sound shellfish fisheries, and could compete with native fish and birds for food.

The Skagit MRC will partner with a Crab Team sponsored by Washington Sea Grant/University of Washington and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Coordination is ongoing with researchers in other regions, and the Samish Indian Nation has offered assistance in monitoring and trapping invasive green crabs in Fidalgo Bay.

Intensive monitoring and crab removals within Skagit County will be managed by the Crab Team coordinator with assistance from the Coastal Volunteer Partnership at Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Skagit MRC has offered support to San Juan County MRC and others who wish to initiate similar projects in local waters.