Illustration of Crab

Crab

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Harvest Method

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Ocean Wise Recommended

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Variety

Stone crab

Menippe mercenaria, Menippe adina

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

US Atlantic, US Gulf of Mexico

Overall Rating

3.4 / 5

Summary

The vast majority of stone crabs are landed in Florida. Florida has managed the stone crab fishery since 1929. Although landings have historically been variable, they have been fairly consistent in recent years. The fishery is unique in that once the claw is removed, the crab is returned to the water and left to regenerate its claw for potential future harvest. Stone crabs have extremely limited availability outside Southern US and the Gulf Coast.

Traps are set on mud, sand, and seagrass which is a moderate conservation concern. The fishery is closed for 5 months of the year and a 30 year plan is in place to reduce the amount of traps used. However, there are no planned studies to investigate the effects of the traps on the ecosystem. Most bycatch consists of undersized juvenile stone crabs which are returned to the wild unharmed. There is little pressure on wild stocks to supply bait, as waste product from slaughterhouses and fish houses are used.

Landings have been consistent in recent years, suggesting that the population is stable. Fishing mortality is difficult to estimate, as crabs are returned to the water after one or two claws are removed, with mortality rates ranging from 19% to 100%. The population is likely not overfished, but is being fished at maximum level.

The stone crab fishery is moderately well-managed. Regulations include prohibition of removing claws from egg-bearing females, season closures, an effort-reduction program, and use of some scientific advice. Most bycatch consists of undersized juvenile stone crabs which are returned to the wild unharmed. There is little pressure on wild stocks to supply bait, as waste product from slaughterhouses and fish houses are used.

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Variety

Snow Crab

Chionoecetes opilio

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Alaska Bering Sea

Overall Rating

4.4 / 5

Summary

Snow crabs were first caught in 1960 by Japanese fisheries until 1976, when Japanese fleets were banned from US waters. As a result, domestic landings gradually increased and peaked in 1991. In the early 2000’s, the Eastern Bering Sea stock had become overfished, and the population has since been recovering.

Snow crabs are caught with traps that are placed on muddy or sandy substrate, where habitat damage is not likely to be significant. Traps are prohibited in sensitive fish habitats, and have modifications that limit the surface area that of the trap that is in contact with the sea floor. Bycatch is generally minimal and usually consists of southern tanner crabs or undersized male snow crabs. No threatened or endangered species are caught.

The snow crab fishery is well-managed. Annual stock-assessments are performed, and management decisions are made based on these, and rigorous scientific studies. Management has also helped to rebuild the fishery from a previously overfished state. Thus the management is highly effective. The stock is currently not overfished, nor is overfishing occurring.

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Variety

King Crab (Red)

Paralithodes camtschaticus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Norway

Overall Rating

3.4 / 5

Summary

The red king crab fishery started in the 1960’s when Soviet scientists introduced the species to the Barents Sea in order to establish a fishery which was jointly managed by Norway and Russia. A commercial fishery was opened in 2002, and in 2007, the countries started managing the fishery separately. Russian red kind crab comprises the majority of the imports to the US. Landings from Norway are around 1000 tonnes and about 30-35% of this is exported to the US.

Red king crabs are an invasive species with negative ecosystem impacts. As such, its population health and abundance is not a concern. Although the Norwegian and Russian fisheries for red king crab are quite similar, they are different with regards to management. The Norwegian fishery operates with the goal of reducing the population size, as the species is a harmful and non-native one. Management splits the stock into two zones. The non-quota zone is designed to encourage fishing, and deplete the population via unlimited catches. The quota zone operates in order to achieve maximum economic yield. In this zone, quotas are high, and the removal of females is allowed. Conversely, the Russian fishery is managed with the goal of sustaining the invasive red king crab population which is concerning.

It is unclear which bycatch species are caught by the red king crab fishery, although bycatch would normally consist of benthic invertebrates. Traps are generally a selective type of fishing gear. Traps cause minimal damage to the habitat. Red king crabs are caught on muddy substrate, which is highly resilient to physical disturbances.

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Variety

Southern Tanner Crab

Chionoecetes bairdi

Method

Wild

Pot

Location

Alaska Bering Sea

Overall Rating

4.4 / 5

Summary

Snow crabs were first caught in 1960 by Japanese fisheries until 1976, when Japanese fleets were banned from US waters. As a result, domestic landings gradually increased and peaked in 1991. In the early 2000’s, the Eastern Bering Sea stock had become overfished, and the population has since been recovering.

Snow crabs are caught with traps that are placed on muddy or sandy substrate, where habitat damage is not likely to be significant. Traps are prohibited in sensitive fish habitats, and have modifications that limit the surface area that of the trap that is in contact with the sea floor. Bycatch is generally minimal and usually consists of southern tanner crabs or undersized male snow crabs. No threatened or endangered species are caught.

The snow crab fishery is well-managed. Annual stock-assessments are performed, and management decisions are made based on these, and rigorous scientific studies. Management has also helped to rebuild the fishery from a previously overfished state. Thus the management is highly effective. The stock is currently not overfished, nor is overfishing occurring.

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Variety

Red rock crab

Cancer productus

Method

Wild

Crab ring

Location

Oregon

Overall Rating

3.0 / 5

Summary

Since 2003, five operating vessels in Oregon have caught an average of 2900 lbs of rock crab annually. Rock crab catches from Oregon are used as octopus food for the aquarium industry. The stock status of the rock crabs in Oregon is unknown because no stock assessments are performed. Although abundance is unknown, rock crabs have life history characteristics that make them resistant against fishing pressure such as a short lifespan and high fecundity.

Crab rings lie flat on the seafloor and only actively fish when they are pulled up. The use of crab rings allows for the immediate release of any non-target species such as Dungeness crab. Some management regulations exist for rock crabs in Oregon. Research has recently begun on the rock crab populations, and the use of crab rings does not necessitate bycatch monitoring. Crab rings have a minimal impact on the ecosystem.

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  • Crab ring
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Variety

Blue crab (Hardshell, Softshell)

Callinectes sapidus

Method

Wild

Trotline

Location

Chesapeake Bay, US

Overall Rating

3.7 / 5

Summary

The blue crab is one of the most ecologically and economically important species in the U.S. The fishery dates back to the 1800’s and landings peaked in the 1990’s. In 2010, the blue crabs represented the 5th most valuable fishery in the US.

Blue crab are caught using trotlines which consist of a length of rope to which bait is attached at several intervals without hooks. The line is secured with buoys at both ends. Blue crabs grasp the bait, and when the line is hauled up, the crabs are netted manually. Non-target species are thrown back live. Trotlines are anchored to the seafloor, on sandy or silty substrate, causing little to no damage to the habitat. The ecosystem impacts from the blue crab fishery are unknown.

Blue crabs have life history characteristics which make them inherently resistant to fishing pressure including high fecundity, fast growth, and rapid recruitment. In 2012, abundance fell below target levels, but has since recovered. Female crab abundance is below target, which is of some concern. Nevertheless, the population is considered to be not overfished despite some uncertainty regarding stock assessments. The blue crab fishery is well-managed with stock assessments being conducted annually using both fishery and fishery-independent data.

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  • Trotline
Ocean Wise Recommended

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Variety

Blue swimming crab

Portunus armatus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Australia

Overall Rating

2.8 - 3.8 / 5

Summary

Blue swimmer crabs are fished in four regions of Australia: Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales. Almost all the crabs are caught in southern Australia. In 2011, 183,445 tonnes of blue swimmer crabs were caught globally, of which 4,176 tonnes were landed in Australia. The majority of the blue swimmer crabs imported into the US are from Indonesia, China, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

In Southern Australia, where 99% of the blue swimmer crabs are caught, the populations are fished at sustainable levels. The blue swimmer crab fishery is well-managed, and management measures exist to increase abundances where they are low. Other management measures include size limits, catch quotas, and the prohibition of taking egg-bearing females. The fishery could be improved by increased research and monitoring.

Traps cause minimal bycatch rates and non-target species can usually be released live and uninjured. The main bycatch usually consists of other crab species, and the impact on their populations is thought to be low. However, in Queensland, some bycatch of endangered green sea turtles occurs which is of high concern. Traps and pots have minimal impacts on the habitat as they are an immobile gear type used on sandy and muddy habitats. Restrictions on the number and size of traps, as well as spatial restrictions, help to mitigate impacts.

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Variety

Atlantic Red Deepsea Crab

Chaceon quinquedens

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

US Atlantic

Overall Rating

N/A / 5

Summary

The Atlantic red deepsea crab started in 1973 as a response to the declining catches of the offshore lobster fishery. Historical catches have been small and inconsistent until 2002 when a limited access fishery was established. Landings averaged around 2000 mt until a quota decrease in 2011 which caused landings to drop to 1775 mt. There is no Canadian fishery for the Atlantic red deepsea crab. All crabs caught by the US are sold within the US with a portion going to Asia.

Red deepsea crabs have life history characteristics that make them moderately vulnerable to fishing pressure. These include a long lifespan but high fecundity. The population status is healthy as the stock is neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing. The regulatory bodies charged with the management of red deepsea crab are the New England Fishery Management Council, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the US Department of Commerce. It is well-managed, with enforced fishing limits, and measures to limit bycatch of female crabs. Additionally, the crabs are managed with the goal of increasing the mean size of crabs over time.

Almost no bycatch is caught in this fishery, except for undersized male red crabs and female red crabs. However, occasional entanglement of whales in the fishing gear is of some concern. Traps cause minimal damage to the habitat. Several management measures are in place to further ensure minimal damage to the habitat. These include trap limits and controlled access. It is not thought that the removal of the red deepsea crabs has a significant effect on the ecosystem.

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Variety

Atlantic rock crab

Cancer irroratus

Method

Wild

Conical trap

Location

Belle River, PEI.

Overall Rating

NA / 5

Summary

Atlantic rock crabs, which are native to the North Atlantic coast of North America, were considered a nuisance bycatch species until the 1990s, when a small commercial fishery emerged. In Northumberland Strait, there is a directed fishery for rock crab that occurs over the summer. Landings in LFA 26 and 26A currently amount to ~3,200 t (combined) annually.

Atlantic rock crabs have life history characteristics that make them moderately vulnerable to fishing pressure. In addition to the targeted fishery, Atlantic rock crabs are also caught as bycatch from the lobster fishery and these landings are not always reported. As such, total fishing mortality is unknown. Landings of Atlantic rock crabs have declined since the opening of the commercial fishery in the 1990s and current population status is unknown due to a lack of data.

The directed rock crab fishery is managed through licenses and annual quotas, size limits, and dockside monitoring. Since little is known about the population structure and the impacts of the lobster fishery, quotas are not based on stock status and the limited data poses challenges to forming management plans.

There are no records of interactions with endangered species (e.g., leatherback turtles, Atlantic cod) in this region. Overall, there is a low risk of bycatch of finfish (and mortality) due to trap design. However, the survival rate of incidentally caught and discarded rock crabs (females and undersized males) remains unknown, as does the amount of bait used by this fishery.

As a passive gear type, traps usually cause minimal habitat damage. The seafloor of Northumberland Strait does not have any sensitive or vulnerable plant or animal species and is composed mostly of mud, silt, and coarse gravel.

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Variety

King crab (Golden, Blue, Red)

Lithodes aequispinus, Paralithodes platypus, Paralithodes camtschaticus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Alaska - Aleutian Islands, Bristol Bay

Overall Rating

3.8 - 4.4 / 5

Summary

There are around forty species of King crabs around the world in the family Lithodidae but only three are of commercial importance; red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus); blue king crab (Paralithodes platypus); and golden king crab (Lithodes aequispinus).

King crabs are a long-lived, cold water species that are moderately fecund and juveniles exhibit an aggregating behavior for protection which makes them moderately vulnerable to fishing pressure. Populations of King Crabs in Alaska and Canada are recovering from past overfishing. The Alaskan king crab fisheries are managed under the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) King and Tanner Crab Fishery Management Plan (FMP), which is developed by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC). Annual stock assessment surveys are conducted during fishing seasons and guideline harvest levels are established. The Alaskan fishery is considered to be effectively managed.

The moderate level of by-catch associated with this harvest method is a concern. Some fisheries have observer programs to monitor by-catch discards but because this is a deep-sea fishery the survival of non-target species returned to the ocean may be low. By regulation, pots are the only fishing gear used in the king crab fishery which results in minimal habitat effects. The extent of impact of pots on the seabed is dependent on the type of bottom habitat in which the pots are set. Soft sediments are less likely to be impacted than hard structures that rise above the seafloor.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

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Variety

Brown rock crab

Cancer antennarius

Method

Wild

Crab ring

Location

Oregon

Overall Rating

3.0 / 5

Summary

Since 2003, five operating vessels in Oregon have caught an average of 2900 lbs of rock crab annually. Rock crab catches from Oregon are used as octopus food for the aquarium industry. The stock status of the rock crabs in Oregon is unknown because no stock assessments are performed. Brown rock crabs are caught infrequently in Oregon, making their population status a likely low concern. Although abundance is unknown, rock crabs have life history characteristics that make them resistant against fishing pressure such as a short lifespan and high fecundity.

Some management regulations exist for rock crabs in Oregon. Research has recently begun on the rock crab populations, and the use of crab rings does not necessitate bycatch monitoring. Crab rings lie flat on the seafloor and only actively fish when they are pulled up. The use of crab rings allows for the immediate release of any non-target species such as Dungeness crab. Crab rings have a minimal impact on the ecosystem.

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  • Crab ring
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Variety

Dungeness crab

Metacarcinus magister (formerly Cancer magister)

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon

Overall Rating

2.9 - 3.2 / 5

Summary

Dungeness crabs are the 7th most valuable fisheries in the United States. The fishery started in 1848 and expanded to Canada in the early 1900’s. British Columbia produced 10% of the commercially landed Dungeness crab in 2013 which equated 36,992 metric tonnes, while Washington produced the largest portion at 34%. Demand for live crabs in China has increased in recent years. As such, 2180 metric tonnes were exported in 2014; the majority going to China.

Observations from landing data suggest that stocks are not overfished. However, certain areas in Alaska have not recovered from historical overfishing and remain closed to commercial fishing. There are concerns that fishing pressure may be too high due to insufficient population information and high exploitation rates. It is possible that if the crabs were fished over a larger geographical area, fishing mortality would be unsustainable.

British Columbia has a regionally limited stock assessment of the Dungeness crab fishery. The US has no formal stock assessment program in place. Regulations of the fishery include limitations on size, sex, and fishing season. Since no female crabs are landed, information is lacking on the abundance and population size structure of females. Management could be improved with increased research particularly around the handling mortality of females and softshell crabs. Regulations around ghost gear fishing would also be beneficial.

Pots and traps are selective methods of fishing and cause little bycatch apart from females and softshell crabs which must be returned to the ocean. Humpback whales occasionally become entangled in the fishing lines used to connect the trap to the floating buoy, although this rarely causes injury or mortality. The Dungeness crab fishery has some impact on species used as bait. Traps cause minimal damage to the habitat. Limits on the size of the traps and the number used help to mitigate habitat impacts.

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Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - Newfoundland & Labrador snow crab

Variety

Snow Crab

Chionoecetes opilio

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Newfoundland & Labrador

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Newfoundland & Labrador snow crab

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - Western Australia Peel Harvey estuarine fishery

Variety

Blue swimmer crab & Sea Mullet

Portunus armatus, Mugli cepahlus

Method

Wild

Gillnet, Trap, Various

Location

Peel Harvey, Estuary, Western Australia.

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Western Australia Peel Harvey estuarine fishery

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - Australia West Coast deep sea crab

Variety

Crystal crab

Chaceon albus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

West coast of Western Australia: FAO statistical area 57

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Australia West Coast deep sea crab

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - Gulf of St Lawrence snow crab trap

Variety

Snow Crab

Chionoecetes opilio

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Gulf of St Lawrence

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Gulf of St Lawrence snow crab trap

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - Scotian shelf snow crab trap

Variety

Snow Crab

Chionoecetes opilio

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Nova Scotia

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Scotian shelf snow crab trap

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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Variety

Beni-zuwai crab

Chionoecetes japonicus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Russia Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Northern Sea of Japan

Overall Rating

0.0 / 5

Summary

About a fifth of all crab imports to the US come from Russia. More than three quarters of the king crabs and almost 10 per cent of the snow crabs in the US are from Russia. Crabs have a history of being overfished in eastern Russia. Specific crab species are not identified by international trade. Imported crabs from Russia can be any of the species covered in this recommendation (red king crab, blue king crab, spiny brown king crab, golden king crab, opilio snow crab, tanner snow crab, triangle tanner crab, red snow crab, Chinese mitten crab, hair crab). In 2014, the US imported 15,500 mt of crabs from Russia. Crabs are amongst the top ten most consumed seafood items in the US.

More than twice the legal limit of crabs caught in Russia are harvested illegally. The extent of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Russia is so significant that it costs the Russian government over $1 billion annually. IUU fishing and poor enforcement is a critical concern as it could potentially cause the collapse of the crab stocks. The IUU fishing which is between 1.7 to 4 times the sustainable fishing levels is a critical concern. IUU fishing drives down global crab prices by flooding the market with cheaper crab. Although Russia has attempted to address IUU fishing through agreements with South Korea, China and the US, IUU fishing remains a significant problem.

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Variety

Blue swimmer crab

Portunus pelagicus

Method

Wild

Bottom gillnet, Trap

Location

Philippines

Overall Rating

0.0 / 5

Summary

Landings of the blue swimmer crab in the Philippines have historically followed a boom-and-bust trend. Before 1970, artisanal gears were used to fish the crabs in small quantities. Bottom trawls lead to high exploitation rates, but were then banned, allowing the population to somewhat recover. An increase in demand in exports has caused further exploitation of the stock by gillnets and pots. Fisheries typically exploit an area until depleted, before moving onto the next. Most blue swimmer crab is exported to the US, and in 2010, 21,000 mt was imported, approximately half of which came from the Philippines.

Blue crabs have life history characteristics that make them inherently resilient against fishing pressure, including a short lifespan and quick time to mature. Population status is unknown as no stock assessments are performed. Fishing mortality in Tawi-tawi is unknown, whereas in the Visayan Sea, it is thought to be high.

Management of the blue swimmer crab fishery is ineffective. Regulations are lacking regarding the protection of bycatch species, the catch of juvenile crabs, and the establishment of fishing limits. Management is unenforced.

There is serious concern over the bycatch of the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in blue swimmer crab fishing gear. The dolphins become entangled in both gillnets and the lines used to tie the pots. As the Irrawaddy dolphin population numbers less than 100 individuals, any fishing mortality has a severe negative impact on their abundance. Bottom gillnets and pots both touch the sea floor and have potential to damage the habitat. Although marine protected areas exist, enforcement is lacking, and many fishing areas remain unprotected.

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Variety

Atlantic rock crab

Cancer irroratus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

US Atlantic

Overall Rating

2.3 - 2.6 / 5

Summary

Atlantic rock crabs and Jonah crabs are native to the North Atlantic coast of North America. The crabs were previously considered nuisance bycatch species, until the 1990’s when a small commercial fishery emerged. They continue to be fished primarily as bycatch from the American lobster fishery. In 2011, landings of Atlantic rock crab in New England were valued at $896,231 whereas the landings for Jonah crab were $5,530,407. Almost all Atlantic rock crabs and Jonah crabs are consumed within the US. Landings of Atlantic rock crab have been less stable than those of Jonah crab in recent years.

The crabs are fished using traps, which are typically a highly selective method of fishing with low bycatch levels. Of concern is the entanglement of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and the threatened Atlantic humpback whales in the lobster gear. As an immobile gear type, traps usually cause minimal habitat damage. However, it is possible that the cumulative effects of numerous traps being used multiple times can damage the ecosystem more than previously thought, especially given the large scale of the lobster fishery from which the crabs are caught.

Little is known about the crab populations, and no stock assessments are performed. The Atlantic rock crab is not federally recognized as a fishery. There is confusion regarding the exact amount of landings, as there is inconsistency in the reporting of the crabs. Fishers and dealers refer to both species as “rock crab” whereas scientists and the landings program distinguish the Atlantic rock crab from the Jonah crab.

Atlantic rock crabs are managed via the regulations imposed on the American lobster fishery from which they are caught as bycatch. These include trap and size limits. Little is known about the stock, and the limited data poses challenges to forming management plans. Jonah crabs are managed via an Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The FMP protects and maintains broodstock through required permits, reporting, trip limits, gear requirements, and prohibition of landing egg-bearing females and partial claws.

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Variety

Atlantic rock crab

Cancer irroratus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Canada: Gulf of St Lawrence

Overall Rating

2.4 / 5

Summary

Atlantic rock crabs are native to the North Atlantic coast of North America. They were previously considered nuisance bycatch species, until the 1990’s when a small commercial fishery emerged. They continue to be fished primarily as bycatch from the American lobster fishery. The fishery has been experiencing declining catches and has not been able to catch their full quota in recent years. In 2011, about 4,197 mt of catches were reported in the Gulf region and 1,581 mt in Quebec. The current population status is unknown due to a lack of data.

Atlantic rock crabs are fished using traps, which are typically a highly selective method of fishing with low bycatch levels. Of concern is the entanglement of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and leatherback turtles in the lobster gear. As an immobile gear type, traps usually cause minimal habitat damage. However, it is possible that the cumulative effects of numerous traps being used multiple times can damage the ecosystem more than previously thought, especially given the large scale of the lobster fishery from which the crabs are caught.

Atlantic rock crabs are managed via the regulations imposed on the American lobster fishery from which they are caught as bycatch. These include trap and size limits, no takes of females, area closures, trap limits and catch quotas. Little is known about the stock, and the limited data poses challenges to forming management plans. Additionally, lobster fishermen are permitted to use any landed rock crabs as bait. There are few regulations and no reporting requirements concerning the use of Atlantic rock crabs as bait in the lobster fishery.

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Variety

King Crab (Southern)

Lithodes santolla

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Argentina

Overall Rating

1.8 / 5

Summary

Not much is known about the population status of the southern king crab as there is no relevant stock assessment for this fishery. Its life history characteristics make it moderately vulnerable to fishing pressure and concerns about the high landings suggest that declines in the population parameters are expected soon. There are also concerns around bycatch of undersized female king crabs and the impacts of ghost fishing. Although management strategies are in place, their effectiveness is unknown and catch limits often exceed scientific advice. Due to allegations of illegal and unsustainable fishing of Russian king crab, the USA and Canada are experiencing higher imports of the Argentinian King Crab.

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Variety

Blue, red swimmer crab (Hardshell, Softshell)

Portunus pelagicus, P. haanii

Method

Wild

Bottom gillnet, Bottom trawl, Trap

Location

China, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Vietnam

Overall Rating

0 - 2.5 / 5

Summary

Blue and red swimmer crabs are distributed in the Indo-west-Pacific region. Swimmer crabs were initially only caught incidentally, but a targeted fisheries has since developed, and has been increasing since the 1950’s. Since blue/red swimmer crab contains more meat than blue crab (Callinectes sapidus), it has been a popular item imported into the US. In 2011, 16,000 tonnes of blue/red swimmer crab were imported.

They are caught using bottom gillnets, bottom trawls and pots/traps, all of which come in contact with the sea floor. Although the weights used to stabilize and sink the bottom gillnets have the potential to damage the habitat that they come into contact with, gillnets do not cause nearly as much damage as bottom trawls which are dragged across the habitat, causing significant damage to physical structures, injury and mortality to organisms, and resuspension of sediment. Pots are not usually associated with habitat damage as they are immobile structures resting on the sea floor.

Bottom gillnets and trawls are a non-selective gear type. They are associated with serious levels of bycatch which include sharks, marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and invertebrates. Bycatch is rarely released live. The use of pots causes significantly less bycatch, as this is a selective fishing method. China uses pots only to catch blue and red swimmer crabs.

Management of the blue and red swimmer crab fishery is ineffective. Few regulations exist to protect egg-bearing females and undersized juvenile crabs. Enforcement and monitoring is rarely applied. The management in India in particular, is a critical conservation concern due to the fact that the coastal marine fishery is open access, and regulations are nonexistent to protect the blue swimmer crabs and fishing effort has increased. Population status is unknown as no regular stock assessments are performed, and no scientific assessment of fishing mortality. However, signs of overfishing have been observed, such as decreased catch per unit effort, and smaller average size of landed individuals.

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Variety

Blue swimming crab

Portunus armatus

Method

Wild

Bottom trawl

Location

Australia

Overall Rating

2.1 / 5

Summary

Blue swimmer crabs are fished in four regions of Australia: Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales. Almost all the crabs are caught in southern Australia. In 2011, 183,445 tonnes of blue swimmer crabs were caught globally, of which 4,176 tonnes were landed in Australia. The majority of the blue swimmer crabs imported into the US are from Indonesia, China, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

The abundance of blue swimmer crabs in Shark Bay began declining in 2011 as a result of environmental conditions and fishing pressure. Commercial fishing was halted for 14 months to allow the population to recover. The fishery has since re-opened, but the catch quota is set at a low level.

Blue swimmer crabs are caught as part of the western king prawn and Australian tiger prawn trawl fishery. Trawling is an unselective method of fishing and high levels of bycatch are caught, including protected sea snakes and endangered or vulnerable sea turtles. Bottom trawls have the potential to cause high levels of damage to the seafloor. Although trawling for blue swimmer crabs occurs on sandy/shell habitats which are resilient against physical disturbances, the areas that are trawled have not been well studied. It is possible that sensitive species such as sponges and soft corals are present.

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Variety

Hanasaki Crab

Paralithodes brevipes

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Russia Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Northern Sea of Japan

Overall Rating

0.0 / 5

Summary

About a fifth of all crab imports to the US come from Russia. More than three quarters of the king crabs and almost 10 per cent of the snow crabs in the US are from Russia. Crabs have a history of being overfished in eastern Russia. Specific crab species are not identified by international trade. Imported crabs from Russia can be any of the species covered in this recommendation (red king crab, blue king crab, spiny brown king crab, golden king crab, opilio snow crab, tanner snow crab, triangle tanner crab, red snow crab, Chinese mitten crab, hair crab). In 2014, the US imported 15,500 mt of crabs from Russia. Crabs are amongst the top ten most consumed seafood items in the US.

More than twice the legal limit of crabs caught in Russia are harvested illegally. The extent of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Russia is so significant that it costs the Russian government over $1 billion annually. IUU fishing and poor enforcement is a critical concern as it could potentially cause the collapse of the crab stocks. The IUU fishing which is between 1.7 to 4 times the sustainable fishing levels is a critical concern. IUU fishing drives down global crab prices by flooding the market with cheaper crab. Although Russia has attempted to address IUU fishing through agreements with South Korea, China and the US, IUU fishing remains a significant problem.

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Variety

Triangle tanner crab

Chionoecetes angulatus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Russia Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Northern Sea of Japan

Overall Rating

0.0 / 5

Summary

About a fifth of all crab imports to the US come from Russia. More than three quarters of the king crabs and almost 10 per cent of the snow crabs in the US are from Russia. Crabs have a history of being overfished in eastern Russia. Specific crab species are not identified by international trade. Imported crabs from Russia can be any of the species covered in this recommendation (red king crab, blue king crab, spiny brown king crab, golden king crab, opilio snow crab, tanner snow crab, triangle tanner crab, red snow crab, Chinese mitten crab, hair crab). In 2014, the US imported 15,500 mt of crabs from Russia. Crabs are amongst the top ten most consumed seafood items in the US.

More than twice the legal limit of crabs caught in Russia are harvested illegally. The extent of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Russia is so significant that it costs the Russian government over $1 billion annually. IUU fishing and poor enforcement is a critical concern as it could potentially cause the collapse of the crab stocks. The IUU fishing which is between 1.7 to 4 times the sustainable fishing levels is a critical concern. IUU fishing drives down global crab prices by flooding the market with cheaper crab. Although Russia has attempted to address IUU fishing through agreements with South Korea, China and the US, IUU fishing remains a significant problem.

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Variety

Red rock crab

Cancer productus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

California

Overall Rating

2.5 / 5

Summary

Since 2000, an average of 1.26 million pounds of rock crab has been caught in California annually. Rock crabs consist of less than 1% of the crab market in the US and are identified as “other crab” when imported and exported.

The use of traps allows for the release of non-target species in a relatively unharmed state. There is some concern about the bycatch of Kellet’s whelk which is not being monitored. Some management regulations exist in California for rock crabs, although very little research is performed on the species. The stock status of rock crabs in California is unknown because no stock assessments are performed. The species are landed as a group under “rock crab” which makes assessing the fishing mortality of individual species difficult.

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Variety

Dungeness crab

Metacarcinus magister (formerly Cancer magister)

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

California

Overall Rating

2.7 / 5

Summary

Dungeness crabs are the 7th most valuable fisheries in the United States. The fishery started in 1848 and expanded to Canada in the early 1900’s. British Columbia produced 10% of the commercially landed Dungeness crab in 2013 which equated 36,992 metric tonnes, while Washington produced the largest portion at 34%. Demand for live crabs in China has increased in recent years. As such, 2180 metric tonnes were exported in 2014; the majority going to China.

Observations from landing data suggest that stocks are not overfished. However, certain areas in Alaska have not recovered from historical overfishing and remain closed to commercial fishing. There are concerns that fishing pressure may be too high due to insufficient population information and high exploitation rates. It is possible that if the crabs were fished over a larger geographical area, fishing mortality would be unsustainable.

British Columbia has a regionally limited stock assessment of the Dungeness crab fishery. The US has no formal stock assessment program in place. Regulations of the fishery include limitations on size, sex, and fishing season. Since no female crabs are landed, information is lacking on the abundance and population size structure of females. Management could be improved with increased research particularly around the handling mortality of females and softshell crabs. Regulations around ghost gear fishing would also be beneficial.

Pots and traps are selective methods of fishing and cause little bycatch apart from females and softshell crabs which must be returned to the ocean. Humpback whales occasionally become entangled in the fishing lines used to connect the trap to the floating buoy, although this rarely causes injury or mortality. The Dungeness crab fishery has some impact on species used as bait. Traps cause minimal damage to the habitat. Limits on the size of the traps and the number used help to mitigate habitat impacts.

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Variety

King Crab (Blue)

Paralithodes platypus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Russia Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Northern Sea of Japan

Overall Rating

0.0 / 5

Summary

About a fifth of all crab imports to the US come from Russia. More than three quarters of the king crabs and almost 10 per cent of the snow crabs in the US are from Russia. Crabs have a history of being overfished in eastern Russia. Specific crab species are not identified by international trade. Imported crabs from Russia can be any of the species covered in this recommendation (red king crab, blue king crab, spiny brown king crab, golden king crab, opilio snow crab, tanner snow crab, triangle tanner crab, red snow crab, Chinese mitten crab, hair crab). In 2014, the US imported 15,500 mt of crabs from Russia. Crabs are amongst the top ten most consumed seafood items in the US.

More than twice the legal limit of crabs caught in Russia are harvested illegally. The extent of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Russia is so significant that it costs the Russian government over $1 billion annually. IUU fishing and poor enforcement is a critical concern as it could potentially cause the collapse of the crab stocks. The IUU fishing which is between 1.7 to 4 times the sustainable fishing levels is a critical concern. IUU fishing drives down global crab prices by flooding the market with cheaper crab. Although Russia has attempted to address IUU fishing through agreements with South Korea, China and the US, IUU fishing remains a significant problem.

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Variety

King Crab (Golden)

Lithodes aequspinus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Russia Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Northern Sea of Japan

Overall Rating

0.0 / 5

Summary

About a fifth of all crab imports to the US come from Russia. More than three quarters of the king crabs and almost 10 per cent of the snow crabs in the US are from Russia. Crabs have a history of being overfished in eastern Russia. Specific crab species are not identified by international trade. Imported crabs from Russia can be any of the species covered in this recommendation (red king crab, blue king crab, spiny brown king crab, golden king crab, opilio snow crab, tanner snow crab, triangle tanner crab, red snow crab, Chinese mitten crab, hair crab). In 2014, the US imported 15,500 mt of crabs from Russia. Crabs are amongst the top ten most consumed seafood items in the US.

More than twice the legal limit of crabs caught in Russia are harvested illegally. The extent of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Russia is so significant that it costs the Russian government over $1 billion annually. IUU fishing and poor enforcement is a critical concern as it could potentially cause the collapse of the crab stocks. The IUU fishing which is between 1.7 to 4 times the sustainable fishing levels is a critical concern. IUU fishing drives down global crab prices by flooding the market with cheaper crab. Although Russia has attempted to address IUU fishing through agreements with South Korea, China and the US, IUU fishing remains a significant problem.

Learn more about harvest methods

Variety

Yellow rock crab

Cancer anthonyi

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

California

Overall Rating

2.5 / 5

Summary

Since 2000, an average of 1.26 million pounds of rock crab has been caught in California annually. Rock crabs consist of less than 1% of the crab market in the US and are identified as “other crab” when imported and exported.

The use of traps allows for the release of non-target species in a relatively unharmed state. There is some concern about the bycatch of Kellet’s whelk which is not being monitored. Some management regulations exist in California for rock crabs, although very little research is performed on the species. The stock status of rock crabs in California is unknown because no stock assessments are performed. The species are landed as a group under “rock crab” which makes assessing the fishing mortality of individual species difficult.

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Variety

Southern Tanner Crab

Chionoecetes bairdi

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Russia Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Northern Sea of Japan

Overall Rating

0.0 / 5

Summary

About a fifth of all crab imports to the US come from Russia. More than three quarters of the king crabs and almost 10 per cent of the snow crabs in the US are from Russia. Crabs have a history of being overfished in eastern Russia. Specific crab species are not identified by international trade. Imported crabs from Russia can be any of the species covered in this recommendation (red king crab, blue king crab, spiny brown king crab, golden king crab, opilio snow crab, tanner snow crab, triangle tanner crab, red snow crab, Chinese mitten crab, hair crab). In 2014, the US imported 15,500 mt of crabs from Russia. Crabs are amongst the top ten most consumed seafood items in the US.

More than twice the legal limit of crabs caught in Russia are harvested illegally. The extent of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Russia is so significant that it costs the Russian government over $1 billion annually. IUU fishing and poor enforcement is a critical concern as it could potentially cause the collapse of the crab stocks. The IUU fishing which is between 1.7 to 4 times the sustainable fishing levels is a critical concern. IUU fishing drives down global crab prices by flooding the market with cheaper crab. Although Russia has attempted to address IUU fishing through agreements with South Korea, China and the US, IUU fishing remains a significant problem.

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Variety

Chinese mitten Crab

Eriocheir sinensis

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Russia Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Northern Sea of Japan

Overall Rating

0.0 / 5

Summary

About a fifth of all crab imports to the US come from Russia. More than three quarters of the king crabs and almost 10 per cent of the snow crabs in the US are from Russia. Crabs have a history of being overfished in eastern Russia. Specific crab species are not identified by international trade. Imported crabs from Russia can be any of the species covered in this recommendation (red king crab, blue king crab, spiny brown king crab, golden king crab, opilio snow crab, tanner snow crab, triangle tanner crab, red snow crab, Chinese mitten crab, hair crab). In 2014, the US imported 15,500 mt of crabs from Russia. Crabs are amongst the top ten most consumed seafood items in the US.

More than twice the legal limit of crabs caught in Russia are harvested illegally. The extent of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Russia is so significant that it costs the Russian government over $1 billion annually. IUU fishing and poor enforcement is a critical concern as it could potentially cause the collapse of the crab stocks. The IUU fishing which is between 1.7 to 4 times the sustainable fishing levels is a critical concern. IUU fishing drives down global crab prices by flooding the market with cheaper crab. Although Russia has attempted to address IUU fishing through agreements with South Korea, China and the US, IUU fishing remains a significant problem.

Learn more about harvest methods

Variety

Snow Crab

Chionoecetes opilio

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Russia Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Northern Sea of Japan

Overall Rating

0.0 / 5

Summary

About a fifth of all crab imports to the US come from Russia. More than three quarters of the king crabs and almost 10 per cent of the snow crabs in the US are from Russia. Crabs have a history of being overfished in eastern Russia. Specific crab species are not identified by international trade. Imported crabs from Russia can be any of the species covered in this recommendation (red king crab, blue king crab, spiny brown king crab, golden king crab, opilio snow crab, tanner snow crab, triangle tanner crab, red snow crab, Chinese mitten crab, hair crab). In 2014, the US imported 15,500 mt of crabs from Russia. Crabs are amongst the top ten most consumed seafood items in the US.

More than twice the legal limit of crabs caught in Russia are harvested illegally. The extent of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Russia is so significant that it costs the Russian government over $1 billion annually. IUU fishing and poor enforcement is a critical concern as it could potentially cause the collapse of the crab stocks. The IUU fishing which is between 1.7 to 4 times the sustainable fishing levels is a critical concern. IUU fishing drives down global crab prices by flooding the market with cheaper crab. Although Russia has attempted to address IUU fishing through agreements with South Korea, China and the US, IUU fishing remains a significant problem.

Learn more about harvest methods

Variety

Brown rock crab

Cancer antennarius

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

California

Overall Rating

2.5 / 5

Summary

Since 2000, an average of 1.26 million pounds of rock crab has been caught in California annually. Rock crabs consist of less than 1% of the crab market in the US and are identified as “other crab” when imported and exported.

The use of traps allows for the release of non-target species in a relatively unharmed state. There is some concern about the bycatch of Kellet’s whelk which is not being monitored. Some management regulations exist in California for rock crabs, although very little research is performed on the species. The stock status of rock crabs in California is unknown because no stock assessments are performed. The species are landed as a group under “rock crab” which makes assessing the fishing mortality of individual species difficult.

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Variety

Kegani Crab

Erimacrus isenbeckii

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Russia Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Northern Sea of Japan

Overall Rating

0.0 / 5

Summary

About a fifth of all crab imports to the US come from Russia. More than three quarters of the king crabs and almost 10 per cent of the snow crabs in the US are from Russia. Crabs have a history of being overfished in eastern Russia. Specific crab species are not identified by international trade. Imported crabs from Russia can be any of the species covered in this recommendation (red king crab, blue king crab, spiny brown king crab, golden king crab, opilio snow crab, tanner snow crab, triangle tanner crab, red snow crab, Chinese mitten crab, hair crab). In 2014, the US imported 15,500 mt of crabs from Russia. Crabs are amongst the top ten most consumed seafood items in the US.

More than twice the legal limit of crabs caught in Russia are harvested illegally. The extent of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Russia is so significant that it costs the Russian government over $1 billion annually. IUU fishing and poor enforcement is a critical concern as it could potentially cause the collapse of the crab stocks. The IUU fishing which is between 1.7 to 4 times the sustainable fishing levels is a critical concern. IUU fishing drives down global crab prices by flooding the market with cheaper crab. Although Russia has attempted to address IUU fishing through agreements with South Korea, China and the US, IUU fishing remains a significant problem.

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Variety

Jonah crab

Cancer borealis

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Canada and US Atlantic

Overall Rating

1.9 - 2.6 / 5

Summary

Jonah crabs are native to the North Atlantic coast of North America. Jonah crabs were previously considered nuisance bycatch species, until the 1990’s when a small commercial fishery emerged. They are fished as part of a directed fishery in Canada and also as bycatch from the lobster fishery. In 2008, reported landings were 3 mt. Since 2010, there has been little commercial catch of Jonah crab because of low catches and low demand.

Jonah crabs are fished using traps, which are typically a highly selective method of fishing with low bycatch levels. Of concern is the entanglement of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and leatherback turtles in the lobster gear. As an immobile gear type, traps usually cause minimal habitat damage. However, it is possible that the cumulative effects of numerous traps being used multiple times can damage the ecosystem more than previously thought, especially given the large scale of the lobster fishery from which the crabs are caught.

Little is known about the population, and stock assessments rely on uncertain data. Landings of Jonah crabs have declined since the opening of the commercial fishery in the 1990’s and current population status is unknown due to a lack of data. Jonah crabs are managed via the regulations imposed on the American lobster fishery from which they are caught as bycatch. These include trap and size limits, no takes of females, area closures, trap limits and catch quotas. As little is known about the stock and there is a lack of data, this poses challenges to forming management plans. Additionally, lobster fishermen are permitted to use any landed Jonah crabs as bait. There are few regulations and no reporting requirements concerning the use of Jonah crabs as bait in the lobster fishery. The last assessment performed on the offshore fishery was in 2009 and in 2000 for the inshore fishery.

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Variety

King Crab (Red)

Paralithodes camtschaticus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Russia Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, Northern Sea of Japan

Overall Rating

2.9 / 5

Summary

About a fifth of all crab imports to the US come from Russia. More than three quarters of the king crabs and almost 10 per cent of the snow crabs in the US are from Russia. Crabs have a history of being overfished in eastern Russia. Specific crab species are not identified by international trade. Imported crabs from Russia can be any of the species covered in this recommendation (red king crab, blue king crab, spiny brown king crab, golden king crab, opilio snow crab, tanner snow crab, triangle tanner crab, red snow crab, Chinese mitten crab, hair crab). In 2014, the US imported 15,500 mt of crabs from Russia. Crabs are amongst the top ten most consumed seafood items in the US.

More than twice the legal limit of crabs caught in Russia are harvested illegally. The extent of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Russia is so significant that it costs the Russian government over $1 billion annually. IUU fishing and poor enforcement is a critical concern as it could potentially cause the collapse of the crab stocks. The IUU fishing which is between 1.7 to 4 times the sustainable fishing levels is a critical concern. IUU fishing drives down global crab prices by flooding the market with cheaper crab. Although Russia has attempted to address IUU fishing through agreements with South Korea, China and the US, IUU fishing remains a significant problem.

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Variety

Blue crab

Callinectes sapidus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Gulf of Mexico, State waters of Louisiana

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Louisiana blue crab

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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Variety

Deeep Sea Red Crab

Chaceon quinquedens

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

Cape Hatteras (North Carolina) in the South to the border with Canada in the North

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Atlantic deep sea red crab

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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Variety

Brown crab

Cancer pagurus

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

EU waters - ICES Area Iva whichis within 6 nautical miles of Shetland

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
SSMO Shetland inshore brown & velvet crab, lobster and scallop fishery

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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Variety

Velvet crab

Necora puber

Method

Wild

Trap

Location

EU waters - ICES Area Iva whichis within 6 nautical miles of Shetland

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
SSMO Shetland inshore brown & velvet crab, lobster and scallop fishery

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

Learn more about harvest methods