The second most valuable seafood exported from Canada is crab, totaling $926 million in 2004. Snow crab, king crab, red rock crab, and dungeness crab are all exported from Canada’s coastlines. Although most of the crab exported from Canada went to the United States, Japan and the European Union also imported.
Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec are all crab fishing locations in the east. These regions catch king and snow crab from April to November. Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans division has placed a quota on the amount of snow crab that can be caught in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island.
East Coast Crab
Commercial crab harvesting in Canada has very specific laws. On the east coast, crabs must be 3.74 inches to 6 inches across the broadest parts of their shells. They must weigh .75 to 2.8 pounds. Male crabs are larger than females, and are preferred for their size.
British Columbia also has a crab industry, and provides both recreational and commercial fishing opportunities. Dungeness and red rock crabs are harvested in British Columbia. Dungeness crabs are located along the west coast from Mexico to the Aleutian Islands. Commercial crab fishing has occurred since 1885, and before the discovery of North America by aboriginals in the Pacific region. Crab fishing can occur everywhere from the coast, or off a dock, to deep in the Pacific Ocean.
To harvest Dungeness crabs, they must be at least 6.5 inches across the widest part of their shell. Dungeness crabs are olive green to purplish-brown. Red Rock crabs must be at least 4.5 inches across. Red rock crabs are bright red with black-tipped claws. Female and small male crabs are delicately returned to the water in order to repopulate. Female crabs can lay 2.5 million eggs at one time, and are vital to maintain crab populations. Any crab with a soft shell, where the shell has been shed so the crab can grow, must be released delicately back into the water so that it can grow and provide higher-quality meat.
Recreation & Resonsibility
A BC Tidal Waters Sport Fishing License is required for harvesting crabs, and license holders are limited to two crab traps per license. Shelling crabs for recreation is not legal unless the licensee is at home. Crab that is gathered recreationally cannot be sold, because it adversely affects commercial crab operations. Traps must adhere to specific guidelines, including having a cotton twine section that will deteriorate and allow trapped crabs to escape when traps are lost. Traps must be attached to buoys that have the name and phone number printed on them. Traps should not be released in areas with high boat traffic. Buoys also cannot be made of jugs, bottles, or Styrofoam, because these materials deteriorate, sink, and are difficult to see. Traps should be weighed down to avoid being lost in tidal activity.