Italy is under maritime siege by a foreign invader known as the granchio blu (blue crab). Like some terrifying alien that lies undetected for decades in a hideous secret lair, untold millions of the crustaceans (whose shells can grow up to nine inches wide) have suddenly emerged and are causing havoc in the country’s delicately balanced marine environment.
The blue crab arrived in Italy from America in the late 1940s in the -ballast tanks of merchant ships, but no one talked about it much until the past couple of years, during which its numbers have exploded. Some blame global warming, but the blue crab is not especially bothered by water temperature one way or the other. It lives in a whole range of climates, from Nova Scotia all the way down to Argentina.
No, the explosion in its numbers must be due to a mysterious alignment of the stars. Or else some dastardly plan set in motion by forces beyond our comprehension.
The blue crab loves lagoons and estuaries, and in Italy it is present mostly in the north-east of the country, around Venice and the nearby delta of the River Po, where fishermen call it ‘Il killer dei mari’ – the killer of the seas.
It devours everything it can get its razor-sharp claws on, above all clams, which are a major industry in this part of Italy and the key ingredient of one of Italy’s most famous pasta dishes: spaghetti con le vongole.
The blue crab has destroyed clam production by up to a half, according to some estimates. It devours mussels and oysters too, and its vicious claws wreak havoc with fishing nets. A girl was recently attacked by a blue crab while swimming at Marsala, Sicily, and had to have eight stitches in her hand. Elsewhere, the crabs have been seen chopping off the claws of seagulls.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her right-wing coalition government allocated €2.9