Asian shore crab


The Asian shore crab (Pacific crab or Japanese shore crab) can be distinguished by the spots on its claws and 3 spines either side of the eyes. It is only a small species of crab, approximately 4cm shell width. It can be found in estuarine and marine habitats.

It is currently not recorded in Australia, but if introduced, has the potential to compete with and prey upon native fish, crab and shellfish species.


Asian shore crab / Hemigrapsus sanguineus

Key features:
  • Spots on claws
  • 3 spines either side of the eyes
  • Shell up to 4cm wide
  • Varied colour green/purple to orange/brown
  • Banded pattern on legs
Known locations:
  • Not recorded in Australia
  • Estuarine and marine habitats
  • Intertidal shallow hard-bottom areas including under rocks, shells, debris and artificial structures
  • Broad diet, competes with and preys upon native species


Similar native species

These native species may be confused with this marine pest.

Swift-footed crab / Leptograpsus variegatus

Key features:
  • Dark-olive green to dark purple Shell up to 8cm wide
  • Purple claws with white tips
  • Three spines on either side of eyes
  • Exposed rocky shores, intertidal

Smooth shore crab / Cyclograpsus audouinii

Key features:
  • No spines either side of the eyes
  • Smooth rounded shell up to 4cm wide
  • Varied colours from red-brown/purple and yellow to purple, dark grey or brownish grey
  • Under rocks on sheltered and moderately exposed shores

Sowrie / Plagusia glabra

Key features:
  • Smooth shell green-brown colour
  • 4 distinct spines on either side of eyes, spines on legs
  • Intertidal, exposed rock platforms or rock pools

Spotted smooth shore crab / Paragrapsus laevis

Key features:
  • Shell width up to 4cm
  • 2 spines either side of eyes
  • First set of legs felted with hairs
  • Intertidal, sheltered coastal bays and estuaries, prefers hiding under rocks, debris and in mangroves





What is NSW DPI doing?

On the 1st July the NSW Government implemented the new Biosecurity Act 2015 (the Act). Under Schedule 2 of this Act the Asian shore crab is declared  as prohibited matter in NSW. This means it is illegal to possess, buy, sell or move this pest in NSW. Heavy penalties apply for non-compliance. In addition, NSW DPI has the power to require the destruction of this pest.

People are expected to have a basic level of knowledge about the biosecurity risks they might encounter in their normal work and recreational activities. All community members have a general biosecurity duty to consider how actions, or in some cases lack of action could have a negative impact on another person, business enterprise, animal or the environment. We must then take all reasonable and practical measures to prevent or minimise the potential impact.

How can you help?

Learn to recognise, and be aware of, the Asian shore crab so that you can report any suspected new sighting.

If you see this pest in NSW, please report it immediately

  • Note the exact location
  • If possible take a photo and/or collect a sample
  • Freeze sample in a plastic bag
  • Report your sighting