What's it like catching Dungeness crab in Southeast Alaska? Just ask crabbers Tyson Fick and Chris McDowell! Utilizing this precious wild resource makes these goofy (and adorable) fishermen truly appreciate the vast abundance of Alaskan fisheries--and motivates them to protect it. Watch our short video above to learn all about Tyson, Chris, and catching Dungeness crab.
More about Dungeness Crab
Succulent, slightly sweet, and a tad salty, Dungeness crab, Metacarcinus magister, get their name from a small Washington state fishing town called (you guessed it) Dungeness. Here they enjoy prime habitat on the famous Dungeness Spit, and they are revered from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. Fishermen along this entire extent of North America’s Pacific Coast participate in Dungeness crab fisheries, and for many of them, catching this crab forms a crucial supplement to their fishing livelihood, as the fisheries often take place in the offseason of other more staple fisheries.
In Alaska, these fisheries typically open biannually: one in the early winter; and another in early summer. With this seasonal rythm, Alaskan fishermen have been catching between 5-6 million pounds along the coasts of the Last Frontier state every year for the last ten years! Our fishing partners harvested your crab this year in the Southeastern fisheries management area of Alaska, which ranges from Haines to the north, and past Ketchikan to the south (although we caught most of yours near Haines—more about that on the next page).
Dungeness crab live primarily in sandy eelgrass beds where they are foragers, predators, and prey. They’re a favorite food of otters, which find them a great deal easier to catch than Dungy’s distant cousin, the spot shrimp (prawns). They’re also one of our favorite foods, and we're proud to offer them seasonally through our CSF shares.
Unpredictability is a common thread in wild fisheries and sometimes equally wild fishermen. If you’ve been a member with us for a few years, you’ve likely come to recognize this (and we do our best to communicate it fully)! Fishing this year’s Dungeness crab fishery was no different. Making matters more complex, Dungys are not targeted by our fishermen owners in Sitka (but they are loved by you, our members). So until we add fishermen to our fleet who catch them, we’ll rely on our trusted network of partner fishermen to source your crab.
The fishermen and processor of Haines Packing Co. is one of these trusted partner sources that aligns with our values. They’re a community-based, family owned fishing outfit and processor out of Haines, Alaska, well known for their high quality seafood and respectful handling. We secured your 2019 Dungeness crab shares working closely with their fishermen on the F/Vs Kealalani, Minter Bay, Beachcomber, and Ambition.
Aside from handling crab carefully and responsibly, essential to crabbing for quality Dungys is adhering closely to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s (ADF&G) rules, size limits, pot regulations, and fishing area closures. Crabbers are only allowed to target male crabs that are 6.5 inches in width from “notch-to-notch.” If you want to know, these notches are specifically defined as “the two notches immediately anterior to the tenth anterolateral spine,” per ADF&G. These guys don’t mess around when it comes to the minutia of fishery management! Any smaller from notch- to-notch, and the crabs must be released. Commercial crab pots also have holes in them which allow small, juvenile crab to escape freely.
The fishery is also closed when male and female Dungeness crab molt. This is a period in which they shed their hard exoskeletons, and are especially susceptible to disturbances or predation. All of this, of course, to ensure that the amazing and delicious Dungeness crab keeps coming back year after year, supporting ecosystems and crabbers like Tyson, Chris, and Haines Packing Co alike!