Dungeness Crab
Cancer magister

Eight legs, two claws, a wide, long, hard shell, a delicious taste, and one of the best-managed fisheries in the world; these are some of the characteristics that make Dungeness crab so amazing.  This crab has to molt (or shed) its shell periodically to allow for new growth.  Molting happens between May and August and mating occurs immediately after the female has molted and before the new exoskeleton hardens.  They can grow up to 1 inch during the yearly molting, but at this time their shells become really thin, making them vulnerable to predators.  They protect themselves by fully burying under the sand while the shell hardens. A chivalrous crustacean, the male dungeness crab embraces the female for several days before mating. Female dungeness crabs can carry up to 2.5 million eggs in one breeding season! But, many of the eggs don’t make it to adulthood…nor to your plate. The young crabs go through five laval stages before reaching maturity, which takes about two years. They take an additional two years to reach full adulthood and their legal harvest size of 6 1/4 inches across the shell. The delicate flavor of dungeness crab meat may be due to their diet: they feed primarily on clams and small crustaceans and fish.

To learn more about your local Dungeness crab fishery, watch this video.

Lifespan: 8-13 years

Size: 7 inches across back and 2-4 lbs


Distribution:Found in low intertidal to over 600 ft deep

How fished: Caught with traps/pots


Why sustainable:  Dungeness crab populations on the West Coast are abundant and the fishery is extremely well-managed.  Fishing seasons are scheduled to avoid crabs’ primary molting season, and size regulations ensure that female and undersized crabs are not retained and allowed to mate.  Also, crab traps have very low amounts of bycatch.  Traps are simply a “crab jail” and release of live animals is easy.

MBA Seafood Watch Rating:
Best Choice

NOAA FishWatch Rating: 
Not ratedNutrition (per 100g): Calories 86g, Total Fat 0.96g, Total Protein 17.4g, Omega-3 0.3g, Cholesterol 59mg, Sodium 295mg

Cooking Demonstration:

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