Dungeness crabs, Metacarcinus magister, are one of the most common local market crabs and are considered sustainable seafood. The Dungeness crab fishery is well managed by size, sex and season. This ensures that the crabs are not caught during sensitive periods, that there are enough females left in the wild, and that they are the correct size. Traps used to collect the crabs have a low impact on the ocean habitat, and do not catch other unwanted animals, known as “bycatch”. The traps are designed to keep the crabs safe, so any unwanted crabs can be freed.
The commercial Dungeness crab fishery is timed to avoid the crabs’ mating season. Only newly-molted female crabs are able to mate, so a male will find a female that is close to molting and embrace her face to face for several days. Once the female molts the male can fertilize her eggs, and may continue to hold and protect her for several more days. A few months later the eggs begin to mature under the females’ telson, a flap of shell that lies up against her belly. Once the eggs hatch, the tiny larvae join other free-floating organisms, collectively called plankton, and eventually settle to the bottom at around 9 months of age. Juvenile crabs stay in protected coastal areas like San FranciscoBay, away from adult crabs. They reach maturity at about 3 years of age. Most crabs you can buy at the store were caught at about 4 years old, and they are all male.
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