Virginia Invasive Species

Rapa Whelk

Rapa Whelk

Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey Archive, U.S. Geological Survey,

What is it?

A large predatory snail that has a stout gray to red-brown shell with black veined markings


Where's it from?

Native to the Sea of Japan, Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and the Bohai Sea


How did it get here?

Unknown, possibly ship ballast water


Where is it now?

Since they were discovered in 1999 by the VIMS Trawl Survey Group, numerous reports have been documented in the lower James, Elizabeth, and York Rivers, Mobjack Bay, and lower Chesapeake Bay. One rapa whelk was collected at Tangier Island, the northernmost finding in the Bay.


What's the harm?

Rapa whelk feed on oysters, clams, and mussels. Their presence in the Chesapeake Bay puts greater pressure on the already stressed shellfish populations and the fisheries dependant on them.


How can I learn more?