- Eat Less
- Crystal crabs are a deep-sea crab found only off Western Australia.
- Crystal crab populations on the west coast appear to be declining below healthy levels, but are not yet seriously overfished. This has resulted in the downgrading of the fishery to a GoodFish Eat Less ranking.
- Despite concerns over the trajectory of the fishery, improvements to the overall management of the fishery have been adopted recently.
- Crystal crabs are mainly caught in pots on longlines, with independent observers confirming minimal habitat impacts and bycatch of other species in the fishery.
Crystal crabs, commonly sold as ‘Snow Crabs’, are a large crab with firm, sweet meat. Look for the origin of Crystal crab when purchasing, as many of the frozen legs sold in retails markets are imported. As one of the most expensive crabs available, Crystal Crabs are usually steamed or boiled and served relatively unadorned to allow the meat to be fully appreciated. They may be made into a salad or seafood cocktail, or served as a standalone feature with sauces or other accompaniments.
- WA West Coast Deep Sea Crustacean Managed Fishery (170t in 2021)
Crystal crabs are a deep-sea crab found only off the Western Australian coastline. Crystal crabs are caught using crab pots on longlines over mud and sand. The pots are lowered to the seafloor and remain in place all year round, lifted up for harvest and then returned to the bottom. Impacts on habitat are likely minimal given the fishing method.
Recent data shows that Crystal crab populations have been on a declining trend to be below healthy levels. Although there is not evidence that they are yet seriously overfished, management and industry will need to reduce fishing pressure significantly to avoid serious depletion. This has resulted in a downgrading of the GoodFish ranking of this seafood option to Eat Less in the current assessment.
Despite this concerning trajectory, more sophisticated management arrangements have recently been introduced to the fishery, which are promising but have yet to demonstrate their effectiveness.
Marine parks may provide a degree of refugia for crystal crabs across the outer continental shelf waters where the fishery operates.
Independent observer coverage in the fishery provides confidence that the ropes used pose little risk of entanglement to whales, as has been an issue in other crab and lobster fisheries. Observer coverage also shows that the capture of other species is minimal, which means there is little discarding and waste in the fishery.