Crab, Dungeness – U.S. and Canada
Dungeness Crabs live in shallow coastal waters from Alaska to Mexico and are named after the Dungeness Spit along the south (U.S.) shore of the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
Dungeness Crabs have a short life cycle and become sexually mature after two years. The crabs typically mate in the spring, and the mating process can last as long as two weeks. Large females can carry over two million eggs. Females are vulnerable during this period and regulations prohibit catches of females at all times. There is also a legal size limit for male crabs to ensure they have an opportunity to grow big enough and old enough to mate once or twice before they are caught.
The abundance of Dungeness Crab varies greatly due to oceanic conditions and consequently catches in the commercial fishery experience periods of highs and lows. Current fishing levels on Dungeness Crab are of moderate concern. Most Dungeness Crabs are caught in circular steel traps called pots that cause moderate habitat damage and typically result in low levels of bycatch. However, in the California, Oregon, and Washington fisheries, endangered humpback whales are occasionally entangled in the pot fishing gear. The Dungeness Crab fisheries also utilize a large amount of other fish to bait the crab pots.