Dungeness Crabs live in shallow coastal waters from Alaska to Mexico and are named after the Dungeness Spit along the south (U.S.) shore of the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
The abundance of Dungeness Crab varies greatly due to oceanic conditions and consequently landings in the commercial fishery experience periods of highs and lows.
Dungeness Crabs become sexually mature after two years, and mating generally begins in early spring when females are ready to molt. Sometimes lasting as long as two weeks, the pair remain in a “pre-mating embrace” until the females sheds her exoskeleton and the male deposits his sperm. Females are vulnerable during this period and regulations prohibit catches of females at all times. Males often mate with numerous females, and large females can carry over two million eggs. The legal size limit for male crabs ensures that they have an opportunity to grow big enough and old enough to mate once or twice before they are caught.
Most Dungeness Crabs are caught in circular steel traps called pots that cause moderate habitat damage and result in low levels of bycatch. The Marine Stewardship Council has certified the Oregon Dungeness Crab fishery operating off the west coast of the U.S. as sustainable.