Dungeness Crab | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Dungeness Crab

Cancer magister

Also known as

Dungles, market crab

Distribution

Sub-polar & temperate waters of northeast Pacific, from the Aleutian Islands to southern California

Écosystèmes/habitats

Soft bottoms

Feeding Habits

Foraging omnivore

Conservation Status

Not listed

Taxonomie

Infraorder Brachyura (crabs with short “tail” hidden under the body); Family Cancridae (crabs, most

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Dungeness crabs are a crustacean species. Like all arthropods, they have an “exoskeleton” (a skeleton on the outside of their body), segmented body parts and jointed appendages. Because their skeleton is outside of their body, arthropods must grow a new exoskeleton and shed their old one as they grow; a process called molting. When people find empty Dungeness crab shells strewn along beaches, they often mistake them for dead crabs, when in fact they are the old exoskeletons of crabs that are still alive, but are now a little bit larger than before.

Dungeness crabs are caught by pot or trap fisheries all over the northeast Pacific coast of North America. The indigenous fishery in British Columbia preceded the arrival of European settlers by thousands of years. The first record of a commercial fishery is from 1885. 

Today, Dungeness crabs are harvested by indigenous, recreational and commercial fisheries, and is one of the most valuable fisheries on Canada’s Pacific coast, supporting numerous coastal communities. The commercial fishery is well managed to ensure it is sustainable. Restrictions to protect the population include limits on crab size (minimum and maximum size limits), on number of traps and gear type, and zero retention of females.  Crab processed in British Columbia can be found and purchased in Canada but the majority of it is exported to the United States.

Dungeness crabs harvested by pot or trap are listed by most certifications as a good sustainable seafood choice.