Maine Seafood Guide - Crab

crabCrab

species description | season | status | regulatory authority |
harvest method | recreational harvest | health benefits & risks | 
buying & preparing | brands | certifications | links | featured harvester



Species Description
Jonah crab Cancer borealis
Rock or peekytoe crab Cancer irroratus
Red crab Chaceon quinquedens

Wild.

“Maine crabmeat” comes from two species, "peekytoe" or rock crab, and Jonah crab. Jonah crabs are a bit larger and reddish with large, black-tipped claws, and are found offshore. The smaller rock crab lives closer to shore, in bays and rivers.

Red crab inhabits deep (1,000-2,000 feet) waters of the continental shelf and slope off the Atlantic coast.



Season
Jonah and rock crabs can be harvested year-round from Maine waters, although fall is peak season when the crabs are full of meat. Many harvesters trap crabs to supplement their income from lobster and other fisheries.
>back to top



Status (see the About page for definitions)
Jonah and rock crabs have cyclical population cycles and their overall population status is not well understood. Maine crab harvesters do not keep females in effort to protect reproductive stock.

Deep-sea red crab is not subject to overfishing, however the status of the stock (biomass, growth, longevity, and abundance trends) is unknown.
>back to top



Regulatory Authority
Maine Department of Marine Resources tracks, but does not currently have regulations for, the crab fishery. A lobster and crab license is required to harvest commercially.

New England Fishery Management Council regulates the deep-sea red crab fishery.
>back to top



Harvest Method
Crab or lobster pot. The offshore lobster fishery supplies crab to large shellfish dealers.
>back to top



Recreational Harvest
Permitted with a non-commercial lobster and crab license from the Department of Marine Resources.
>back to top



Health Benefits & Risks
Maine crabmeat is low in fat, high in zinc, and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Crab is low in mercury.

Crab is not usually affected by red tide, but purchase from a certified shellfish dealer or check the DMR hotline for harvesting closures if trapping crabs yourself: 1-800-232-4733 or 207-624-7727.
>back to top



Buying & Preparing
Crabs are rarely sold live in Maine; fresh and frozen crabmeat is the dominant product, and unless specified is usually a mix of both Jonah and rock crab. Maine crabmeat is sweet, firm, and finely textured, with a more delicate flavor than blue crab. Peekytoe meat is a bit firmer and finer than Jonah.

Most red crab goes to the wholesale/restaurant market.
>back to top



Companies, Brands, and Labels
Portland Lighthouse
>back to top



Certifications & Verifications
Marine Stewardship Council (Atlantic deep-sea red crab 2009)
>back to top



Links
None.
>back to top



Featured Harvester
Donna Bridges, Stonington
>back to top


species description | season | status | harvest method | recreational harvest
health benefits & risks | 
buying & preparing | brands certifications | links | featured harvester