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Alaskan Crab Species and Fishing: FAQs

Alaskan Crab Species and Fishing: FAQs

Sure, you know crabs legs make a decadent meal, but what else do you really know about these mysterious creatures of the sea? When it comes to delicious, mouth-watering seafood, Alaskan crab stands above the rest. But before you sink your teeth into the best the 49th state has to offer, here are some commonly asked questions and lesser-known facts about these little crustaceans that have a huge impact on Alaska's economy and culture.

How many species of crab can be found in Alaskan waters?

Around the world, there are more than 6,000 species of crabs. That’s right — 6,000! Of course, many of these are not edible — like hermit crabs — and would never find their way onto your dinner plate. In Alaska’s waters alone, there are around 18 species of crab, but according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, only 10 of those species are commercially fished:

  • Red king crab
  • Blue king crab
  • Golden king crab
  • Tanner crab
  • Snow crab
  • Hair crab
  • Dungeness crab
  • Scarlet king crab
  • Grooved Tanner crab
  • Triangle Tanner crab

The last three on that list are considered “minor species” when it comes to commercial fishing. That means they are usually just incidental catches rather than being purposefully fished. Every year, officials use the biomass — the technical term for the estimate of the total king crab population — to determine how many king crab commercial fishermen will be allowed to catch that year.

What separates king crabs from the rest?

King crabs are distinguishable by their color — red, blue and gold — and their large size. An adult king crab can have a leg span as long as five feet and can weigh more than 20 pounds. These enormous creatures can also live for decades, with some of the largest king crabs estimated to be between 20 and 30 years old.