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  • Size: Males are up to 24 pounds with a leg span of five feet. Females tend to be smaller at up to 10.5 pounds.

  • Lifespan: Males and females estimated to live up to 20-30 years

  • Distribution/Range: British Columbia to Japan north to the Bering Sea with Bristol Bay and Kodiak Archipelago being the centers of its abundance in Alaska.

  • Red king crabs were historically the most commercially important shellfish species in Alaska. Between 1975 and 2018, U.S. crabbers harvested nearly 854 million pounds of red king crab worth $2.5 billion (not adjusted for inflation) from Alaska waters.


  • Size & Age: Males of commercial size usually range from 2 to 4 pounds between 7 to 11 years of age.

  • Distribution/Range: Bairdi are fished throughout Alaska, including the Bering Sea, Kodiak, and Southeast Alaska.  

  • Bairdi are "true" crabs with four walking legs per side and one pair of pinchers.

  • Bairdi is closely related to opilio, and both are often marketed as snow crab (even though they are two separate species).  Bairdi tend to have larger legs than opilio.


  • Size: Males of commercial size usually range from 1 to 2 pounds.

  • Distribution/Range: In United States waters, the commercial fishery for opilio only occurs in the Bering Sea

  • Migration patterns are not well understood; however, it is known that the sexes are separated during much of the year and move into the same areas during the reproductive season.

  • Although opilio and bairdi are discreet species, they are able to crossbreed. In fact, there are specific regions in the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean that contain high numbers of opilio/bairdi crab hybrids. 

Source: ADF&G


This map details the full range of locations where red king crab, bairdi, and opilio crab are historically found.  The directed crab commercial fisheries take place in a much smaller footprint that is driven by federal and state policy and other limiting factors.    


Pot gear, a type of fixed or stationary gear, is used to harvest crab in the Bering Sea. Pots are fished on the seafloor and connected to the surface via a line and buoy. Bering Sea crab pots generally have a large square design (7 feet by 7 feet) and are made of heavy steel weighing over 700 pounds to withstand the harsh conditions of fishing in Alaska. 


Crab pots have webbing on the sides and include a biodegradable section of cotton twine to prevent ghost fishing if a pot is lost. Crab pots are designed for easy modification so they can target certain species of crab while excluding other species. 


Harvested crab are kept alive in holding tanks until delivered to shoreside processing plants. Bering Sea crab fisheries provide wholesome and delicious, sustainable crab to customers around the world. 


A solid foundation of science and management ensures the sustainability and health of the Bering Sea crab resource. Sustainability is of utmost importance to the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers because we have a vested interest in this fishery supporting our communities, families, and businesses for generations to come. 

Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers collaborate with many groups to get this important work done. Learn more about the agencies and organizations we partner with, and the critical work they do.

Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation

National Marine Fisheries Service

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Seafood Harvesters of America

United Fishermen of Alaska

Alaska Ocean Acidification Network

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