North American Snow Crab Clusters

North American Snow Crab Clusters

The North American snow crab fishery targets three species: Chionoecetes opilio, C. bairdi and C. tanneri. Technically, opilios are snow crabs, and bairdis are tanners. Alaska’s opilio fishery occurs in the Bering Sea and is much larger than its bairdi fishery. Bairdi are taken in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The most important commercially is opilio, which is also the only species caught in both the Atlantic and Pacific. It has supported major fisheries in both Alaska and the Canadian Maritimes (where it’s sometimes called queen crab). Snow crabs are taken in traps, from sandy bottoms in depths of 30 to 1,500 feet. They are smaller and less red than king crabs and, instead of the king’s three sets of walking legs, these crabs have four sets, plus a pair of claws. Bairdi are the largest snow crab, averaging 5 pounds and measuring 3 feet from tip to tip. Opilio average just over 1 pound; tanners are slightly larger, with longer, skinnier legs.

 

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