Crab

Crab

Dungeness crab, © Amadeo Bachar

At a glance

Eco-rating Mercury Omega-3s
+-Snow crab (US)
Best
Low

More about Snow crab

The Snow crab occupies the colder waters of both the Pacific and the Atlantic. Females grow to about 3 inches (8 cm), males to four. Like the king crab, the snow crab is esteemed for its fleshy leg meat. Because of substantial declines in stocks in recent years, the amount of snow crabs allowed for harvest in Alaska has been significantly reduced.

Commercial Sources

Snow crabs are found in the western North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. In the Atlantic, they occur from Greenland and Newfoundland to the Gulf of Maine. In the Pacific, they are distributed on the continental shelf of the Chukchi and Bering Seas.

The main source of snow crabs is Canada. Snow crabs sold in the U.S. market are primarily from Canada, Greenland and the Russian Federation.

Capture Methods

Snow crabs come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with pots and traps.

+-Stone crab
Best
Low

More about Stone crab

The oval, rock-shaped Florida stone crab lives in southern Atlantic waters and the Gulf of Mexico. Because the stone crab is sought mainly for its succulent claw meat, harvesters usually remove one claw and throw the crab body back into the water; after two years or so, it grows a new claw.

Commercial Sources

Florida stone crabs are found in the western North Atlantic, from North Carolina to Texas, including the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba and the Bahamas.

The main source of Florida stone crabs is the United States, followed by Mexico and Cuba.

Capture Methods

Florida stone crabs come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with pots and traps. They are also handpicked.

Note: In the United States, only the claws may be harvested and only one at a time. Crabs are returned to the water and regenerate their missing claw.

+-Blue king crab (U.S.)
OK
Low

More about Blue king crab

The blue king crab closely resembles its red brother. It also may also reach a kingly size of up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) from claw to claw, but on average it weighs about 6 pounds. This crab lives in cold Pacific or Arctic waters and has a protective covering of spikes and spines.

Commercial Sources

Blue king crabs are found in the North Pacific, from British Columbia to the Bering Sea and from the Aleutian Islands to the Sea of Japan.

The main source of blue king crabs is the Russian Federation.

Note: When alive, blue king crabs are brown with royal blue highlights. However, because they turn bright orange-red when cooked, they are often sold as red king crab.

Capture Methods

Blue king crabs come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with pots and traps. Additional types of fishing gear include bottom trawls.

+-Southern tanner crab
OK
Low

More about Tanner crab

The Tanner crab actually lives in the northern Pacific; it is not southern at all. When this creature is ready to mate, it joins up with more than 100 other crabs to form a big pile. These groups may serve to help females attract mates and to protect crabs from predators.

Commercial Sources

Southern tanner crabs are found in the North Pacific, from the Shelf of Kamchatka in eastern Russia to the Bering Sea and from the Alaska Peninsula down to Oregon State.

The main source of southern tanner crabs is the United States.

Capture Methods

Southern tanner crabs come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with pots and traps.

+-Blue crab
OK
Low

More about Blue crab

The blue crab, named for its bluish-green color (and blue claws on males), is a key commercial species in the Chesapeake Bay; it lives along the eastern United States seaboard as well as the Gulf of Mexico. The red-clawed female molts about 20 times but mates only once in its short life (up to 2 years).

Commercial Sources

Blue crabs are native to the western Atlantic from Nova Scotia, Canada, to northern Argentina, including Bermuda and the Caribbean. They have been introduced into Europe and Asia.

The main source of blue crabs is the United States followed by Mexico.

Capture Methods

Blue crabs come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with pots and traps. Additional types of fishing gear include trotlines, dredges and bottom trawls.

+-Dungeness crab
OK
Low

More about Dungeness crab

The Dungeness crab is the key commercial crab species in the Pacific Ocean from Alaska to central California. It travels to shallow water to molt, leaving its discarded shell behind to wash up on beaches and shorelines.

Commercial Sources

Dungeness crabs are found in the western North Pacific, from Alaska to central California.

The main source of dungeness crabs is the United States.

Capture Methods

Dungeness crabs come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with pots and traps. Additional types of fishing gear include nets and hooks-and-lines; they are also handpicked.

Note: Only mature male crabs can be fished during the session, while female and undersized male crabs are returned to the water.

+-Jonah crab
OK
Low

More about Jonah crab

The Jonah crab inhabits the deep water and rocky bottoms in the north Atlantic, from New England to Canada.

Commercial Sources

Jonah crabs are found in the western North Atlantic, from Nova Scotia in Canada to North Carolina, including the Bermudas.

The main source of Jonah crabs is the United States.

Capture Methods

Jonah crabs come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with pots and traps. Additional types of fishing gear include bottom trawls, hooks-and-lines and nets.

+-Red king crab (U.S.)
OK
Low

More about Red king crab

The huge red king crab inhabits the cold waters of the Arctic, preferring sandy or muddy bottoms. Harvested from large ocean vessels, king crabs are prized for their meaty legs. Most king crabs weigh about 6 pounds, although a record capture measured 25 pounds with legs that stretched to 6 feet (1.8 meters) tip to tip.

Commercial Sources

Red king crabs are found in the North Pacific Ocean. In Asia, they occur from the Sea of Okhotsk and the Shelf of Kamchatka in eastern Russia to the Aleutian Islands. In North America, they are distributed from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Alaska. The main source of red king crabs is the Russian Federation.

Capture Methods

Red king crabs come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with pots and traps. Additional types of fishing gear include bottom trawls.

+-Red king crab (imported)
Worst
Unknown

More about Red king crab

The huge red king crab inhabits the cold waters of the Arctic, preferring sandy or muddy bottoms. Harvested from large ocean vessels, king crabs are prized for their meaty legs. Most king crabs weigh about 6 pounds, although a record capture measured 25 pounds with legs that stretched to 6 feet (1.8 meters) tip to tip.

Commercial Sources

Red king crabs are found in the North Pacific Ocean. In Asia, they occur from the Sea of Okhotsk and the Shelf of Kamchatka in eastern Russia to the Aleutian Islands. In North America, they are distributed from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Alaska. The main source of red king crabs is the Russian Federation.

Capture Methods

Red king crabs come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with pots and traps. Additional types of fishing gear include bottom trawls.

+-Blue king crab (imported)
Worst
Unknown

Blue king crab

The blue king crab closely resembles its red brother. It also may also reach a kingly size of up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) from claw to claw, but on average it weighs about 6 pounds. This crab lives in cold Pacific or Arctic waters and has a protective covering of spikes and spines.

Commercial Sources

Blue king crabs are found in the North Pacific, from British Columbia to the Bering Sea and from the Aleutian Islands to the Sea of Japan.

The main source of blue king crabs is the Russian Federation.

Note: When alive, blue king crabs are brown with royal blue highlights. However, because they turn bright orange-red when cooked, they are often sold as red king crab.

Capture Methods

Blue king crabs come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with pots and traps. Additional types of fishing gear include bottom trawls.

Recommended servings per month

Contaminant Men Women Kids 6-12 Kids 0-5
Blue king crab (U.S.) Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Snow crab (US) Mercury 4+ 4+ 4 4
Southern tanner crab Mercury 4+ 4+ 4 4
Blue crab Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Dungeness crab Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Jonah crab Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Red king crab (imported) Unknown 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Blue king crab (imported) Unknown 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Red king crab (U.S.) Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Stone crab Mercury 4 4 4 4
Eco details: 
  • Most species of crabs are caught in pots or traps that are designed to reduce bycatch and habitat damage.
  • Red and blue king crabs, harvested for their legs, come primarily from a poorly managed Russian fishery — look for U.S. king crabs instead.
  • Alaskan snow crabs from the Bering Sea have recovered from overfishing and the fishery is well-managed and closely monitored.
  • Although blue crabs (hardshell and softshell) can generally withstand heavy fishing, habitat degradation in the Chesapeake Bay and bycatch in Gulf of Mexico shrimp fisheries continue to be concerns.
  • Approximately 20% of Chesapeake blue crabs are caught on hookless "trot lines", which have the added benefit of zero bycatch since the bait is tied directly to the line. These are considered an "Eco-Best" if you can find them in the market.