Oregon Dungeness Crab Industry

Dungeness crab, reportedly named after a small fishing village on the Straight of Juan de Fuca in Washington State, has been harvested commercially along the Pacific coast since the late 1800’s. They range from central California to the Gulf of Alaska, and have long been part of the Northwest’s seafood heritage.

Dungeness are caught in circular steel traps commonly called ‘pots’. Weighing anywhere from 60 to 125 lbs and measuring 36” to 48” in diameter, each pot has a length of line and a buoy attached to mark its position for retrieval. The pots are baited with squid or razor clams to attract the bottom-dwelling crabs, and set on the ocean floor following the contour of the adjacent coastline. They are allowed to ‘soak’ for a one to four-day period, depending on the fishing conditions, weather and time of year. The average boat fishes 300-500 pots in depths of 5-100 fathoms (30 to 600 feet) of water. After being brought to the surface by a hydraulic power-block, the crabs are sorted and kept alive on-board the vessel in circulated seawater until they are delivered to shore-side processing plants.

Only mature male crabs measuring 6 ¼” across the shell are harvested. Juvenile males and all females are returned to the sea to insure healthy stocks for future harvests.