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Bering Sea Crab

Several species of crab are found in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, including:

  • Red king crab 

  • Blue king crab

  • Golden king crab

  • Opilio (snow) crab

  • Bairdi (Tanner) crab

Each season our harvesters fish for a different crab species.  Red king crab is harvested in October and November while oplio (snow) and bairdi (Tanner) crab are generally harvested January through March.


Below is an introduction to the main crab species harvested by members of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.



 This map at left shows the general location where these species are harvested.

Red King Crab

(Paralithodes camtschaticus)

Fast Facts

From ADFG website

  • Size: Females up to 10.5 lbs; Males up to 24 lbs and leg span of five feet

  • 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.

  • Remarks: Red king crabs were historically the most commercially important shellfish species in Alaska. Since statehood in 1959, U.S. fishers have harvested nearly 2 billion pounds of red king crab worth $1.6 billion from Alaska waters.

  • Status: Healthy

King crab, as their name implies, are the largest of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab species, with a leg span of up to five feet. King crab come in many colors, including red, blue, and golden, each a distinct species. Red king crab are the most iconic and are known worldwide as a luxury food. True to their name, red king crab appear dark red or burgundy in color. 


Want to know where to buy King Crab? Click Here

Opilio (Snow)


(Chionoecetes opilio)

Opilio crab are often marketed under the name "snow crab." Males of commercial size usually range from 7 to 11 years of age and vary in weight from 1 to 2 pounds.  Opilio are smaller at maturity than Bairdi, a closely related crab species. 

Bairdi (Tanner) Crab

(Chionoecetes bairdi)

Bairdi crab are often marketed under the name "Tanner crab" or "snow crab." Similar to opilio, male bairdi of commercial size usually range from 7 to 11 years of age.  However, bairdi tend to be larger, weighing 2 to 4 pounds.

Fast Facts

From ADFG website

  • The Snow crab fishery began in 1961 and is now one of the most commercially important to the state of Alaska.

  • Snow crabs are found throughout the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea along the continental shelf and coastal waters. Mature males typically weigh 1-4 pounds. Snow are "true" crabs with four pairs of walking legs and one pair of pincers.

  • Chionoecetes is pronounced ki-no-see-tes. Chionoecetes means snow (chio) inhabitant (ioketes), and are often marketed under the name "snow crab."

  • Although C. opilio and C. 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 hybrids. The hybrid individuals display a mix of physical traits that are typically attributed to either of the two discreet species.

Opilio and Bairdi are similar crab species and can interbreed, creating hybrid crab. 

Blue King Crab

(Paralithodes platypus)

Blue king crab appear blue to purple color and are a less common species of king crab. Blue king crab populations are currently below a biomass level that can support a fishery due to normal population fluctuations and, therefore, are closed to directed fishing to protect the stock. 

Fast Facts

From ADFG website

  • Size: Up to 18 pounds for a mature male.

  • Range/Distribution: Disjunct populations in the North Pacific Ocean, with major concentrations primarily in Bering Sea.

  • Diet : Wide assortment of invertebrates including worms, clams, mussels, snails, brittle stars, sea stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, barnacles, crabs, other crustaceans, fish parts, sponges, and algae.

  • Predators: A wide variety of marine fishes, king crab, and octopus.

  • Reproduction : Biennial spawning, embryos held in egg cases attached to the abdomen.

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