YORK, Maine - When it comes to seafood, lobsters and Maine are practically synonymous. But two fishermen and a famous chef are trying to broaden the seafood market and reduce a harmful, invasive species at the same time.
Renowned chef Jeremy Sewall, his nephew fisherman Sam Sewall and fisherman Mike Masi are on the hunt for green crabs.
They head to a tidal estuary near Brave Boat Harbor in York, Maine to make their morning catch.
Green crabs are not native to New England and can wreak havoc on the ecosystem.
"Once they come into a new area that's suitable for them, they can absolutely explode," explains Masi. "We haven't been having those freezing cold winters anymore and so there's nothing to really keep their populations in check."
The troublesome creatures are not a new problem. They were first introduced to North America in the 1800s. Likely hitching a ride in ballast water of European merchant ships.
Yet, they continue to create issues. Eating oysters, mussels, clams and other crabs native to Maine. They feast on eelgrass and excavate parts of the marsh, which can also lead to an increase in erosion.
The key to the whole endeavor is catching the crabs just after they've shed their shells in a process called molting.
"In order to easily consume these, you want to have them as a soft shell crab," says Masi.
Though Masi and the younger Sewall also sell them as bait when their shells harden back up.
Another part of this whole equation, fishing these green crabs expands what fisherman catch in Maine beyond the traditional lobsters.
Something Masi and Sewall feel is essential for sustainability.
"That's going to make me far and away the most diverse fisherman in the harbor," says Sam Sewall.
And when it comes to using the green crabs at his restaurants, Chef Jeremy Sewall says the taste is comparable to most any other crab and he has chosen to cook them up as fried slider sandwiches.
At Row 34 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Sewall says it was a natural fit for his restaurant, "Sam and Mike came to me and said, 'Can you do something with soft shell green crab?' I said we'll give it a shot."
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