Chinese mitten crab


The Chinese mitten crab is in the top 100 of “Worlds Worst Invaders” list. It is identifiable by the 4 spines either side of the eyes, and the large claws with white tips. It is known to occur in both marine and freshwater environments at different life stages so has a broad range of potential impacts.

It is an opportunistic feeder that can out-compete native species. It can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and modified habitats. It is capable of forming dense colonies that can cause erosion by intense burrowing. This species has had serious impacts in some European and American river systems.


Chinese mitten crab / Eriocheir sinensis

Key features:
  • Large claws with white tips and light brown bristles that resemble "mittens"
  • 4 spines either side of the eyes
  • Smooth shell up to 8cm wide
Known locations:
  • Tolerates a wide range of temperatures and modified habitats
  • Prefers estuarine and coastal areas including lakes, wetlands and river banks
  • Tolerates a wide range of temperatures and modified habitats
  • Prefers estuarine and coastal areas including lakes, wetlands and river banks
  • Forms dense colonies that cause erosion by intense burrowing
  • opportunistic diet, out competes native species
  • Can carry lung fluke that can infect humans

Chinese Mitten crab

Chinese Mitten crab

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

Red bait crab / Plagusia chabrus

Key features:
  • Hairy body and legs with spines on legs
  • Red/brown/orange colour
  • Shell up to 7cm wide
  • Deeply notched between the eyes
  • Prefers subtidal reefs up to 8m depth


 Red bait crab

What is NSW DPI doing?

On the 1st July the NSW Government implemented a new Biosecurity Act 2015 (the Act). Under Schedule 2 of this Act the Chinese Mitten 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 seize and require the destruction of the 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 Chinese mitten 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