Wildlife Fact Sheets

Dungeness Crab

Dungeness Crab

Dungeness Crab

Metacarcinus magister

  • Life Span
    Over 10 years
  • Habitat
    I prefer sandy or muddy parts of the ocean floor, especially around eelgrass beds.
  • Range
    You can find me from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to Mexico, but I’m mostly found in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Preferred Food
    I like crustaceans, bivalves, worms and even fish.


I’m one of the most popular seafood items in the Pacific Northwest (just call me King in the North!). You can recognize me by my purple-hued shell, which can grow up to ten inches across.

I’m part of a massive fishery that supports communities from California to Alaska—in 2014, the fishery brought in $212 million, even though the season only lasts a few months a year! In 2016, the fishery was hit hard by a toxic bloom of Pseudonitschia algae, which postponed the fishery opening for one month in Oregon and Washington, but for five months in California. I like to eat the algae, causing buildup of a toxin called domoic acid in my body. Although it doesn’t hurt me, it can make humans and other marine life very sick!

Did You Know?

California, Oregon and Washington are responsible for about 70% of our fishery harvest each year!

Status and Conservation

Let’s be clear: I’m not an easy one to catch. I’m an expert at hiding and avoiding traps and can be very hard to find. But the threat of ocean acidification could make me even harder to find. Early research shows that ocean acidification could make young Dungeness crabs grow more slowly, or even cause fewer to survive to adulthood! To top it off, ocean acidification may cause Pseudonitschia to produce more domoic acid. To best avoid this, humans need to invest in research and learn more about ocean acidification and its potential impacts on our fishery and others!

Fast Facts


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