North Carolina has long been known for its bountiful seafood.
Our local fishermen harvest a variety of top quality seafood products, including shrimp, blue crabs, grouper, flounder, oysters and clams to name a few.
This month we celebrate a seafood lover’s favorite: Blue Crabs!
Did You Know?
- Blue crabs are a tasty seafood, and are consumed in crab cakes, she-crab soup, and as soft shell crabs, among others.
- Blue Crabs are North Carolina’s most valuable fishery
- Blue crabs can generate $100 million or more yearly through dockside value and processed blue crab products
- More pounds of blue crabs are caught in North Carolina than any other seafood species
- More North Carolinians are employed by the blue crab industry than any other fishery
Harvesting Blue Crabs
- 95% of blue crabs are caught with a crab pot, a baited cage that allows small crabs to escape while keeping large ones.
- 89% of crabs caught are landed between May and October.
- 96% of crabs caught are hard crabs, the rest are soft or peeler crabs.
- Blue crabs are also caught recreationally, though the amount caught by recreational fisherman is unknown.
- Blue crabs must be 5″ from point to point (carapace width) to be harvested; However, this size limit does not apply to mature females, soft, or peeler crabs.
- The blue crab is a highly sought-after shellfish. Blue crabs live up and down the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico and are caught by both commercial and recreational fishermen.
- Its scientific name—Callinectes sapidus—translated from Latin means ‘beautiful savory swimmer.’
Soft Shell Crabs– In order to grow the blue crab goes through a molting period where it sheds it old hard shell which is replaced with a new larger shell. During the molting process the old shell is released exposing a soft shell that has grown under the old hard shell. The new shell typically stays soft as it quickly grows to become a bigger shell. The crab will stay in this soft state for 1 to 2 days before turning hard. By looking at the swimming paddle of the blue crab, it can be determined how soon the crab will shed its hard outer shell. Once caught, these crabs are separated and will be sold as peelers. The peelers are placed in shedding tanks along with other peelers. The shedding tanks are monitored 24 hours a day to make sure the soft crab is removed the instant it releases the old shell. This reason for the monitoring is to keep the other crabs from eating the soft crab after it sheds its hard outer shell.