Video: Sea creatures can be slimy and may pinch, but we still enjoy catching them

Jennifer Santos

Armed with goggles and a fish net, they race against the tide to find the most sea life they can handle. “I’m the crab guy; you’re the lobster king,” says A.J. Iris, 9, of Washington, as he and his cousin Chris Gentes, 9, of Wellesley head into the low waters of Minot Beach in Scituate in search of seashore creatures.

The two begin lifting up rocks and scooping up anything from clam shells to hermit crabs, and even a lobster.

Brandon Iris, 8, prefers to stay on dry rocks, spotting crabs buried in the seaweed or in the shallow tide pools.

Whatever the kids catch goes into a bucket of saltwater for the day and gets released in the evening.

“We release the creatures at night during high tide so that they can swim back,” Brandon said.

Travel along the shore at low tide and you may find sea stars; sea urchins; whelks (a type of snail); sea clams, including soft-sided clams and quahogs; and the occasional mussel.

Barnacles, periwinkles and limpets tend to stay on the rocks where it’s drier, while various types of algae and Irish moss tend to grow in the rockweed zone, a slightly wetter area, said Sara Grady, a watershed ecologist for the Massachusetts Bays Program.

But not every shoreline inhabitant belongs there.

A big part of Grady’s job is spent searching for and documenting invasive species – those that are not native and have established themselves in another ecosystem, often to the detriment of indigenous species.

Among the worst invaders are the green crab and the Asian shore crab, Grady said.

The Asian shore crab generally stays in the mid-intertidal zone under rocks on gravelly and rocky beaches. The green crab likes to stay in the rockweed zone. Beware of the green crab, Grady warns, as it has strong claws and may pinch if handled incorrectly.

Both crabs have a broad diet and can disrupt the food chains of native species of fish and shellfish.

Look closely and you might find tiny coral-like colonial animals known as bryozoans, which contain calcium carbonate. Bryozoans are often pinkish in color and turn white when dried out.

Bryozoans are considered harmful because of the damage they can do to native algae and seaweed. They feed off microscopic sea animals that live in the water, which they grab with tiny tentacles.

Jennifer Santos may be reached at