Snow Crab: Everything You Need to Know

The snow crab, also known as the opie, is native to the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and has a significant population off the Alaskan coast.

Crab meat is a popular and tasty seafood in Korea, and these crabs are important to the commercial fishing industry since they supply meals for many seafood restaurants.

These crustaceans have had healthy levels for fishing, but ocean and climate change are dangers to these creatures that may cause a price increase in the event of a scarcity.

snow crab

Snow Crab Nomenclature

The scientific name for the Snow Crab is Chionoecetes opilio. Opies or opilio crabs are another name for these crustaceans.

Decapoda is a class of animals that includes over 15,000 distinct species. The majority of the species in this order are scavengers. The Oregoniidae family contains several different crab species.


Snow Crabs have brown or reddish shells with yellow or white undertones, as well as four pairs of legs on the underside.

This color shading helps these crabs conceal themselves in the deep seas where they dwell. The four pairs of legs assist these crustaceans move about freely on Alaskan or North Atlantic ocean floors.

Habitat and Distribution

The commercial catches of Snow Crab in Alaska are expected to reach 36.6 million pounds in 2020, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The crab has never been short in the Pacific or Atlantic, and NOAA does not consider it overfished.

The migratory habits of these crabs are less well-known than those of other types. The Bering Sea has seen the most significant population movements, with numbers growing steadily throughout the year.

They are distributed across the world via ocean currents. These crabs may be found as deep as 265 feet below the surface in some places and 66 to 265 feet beneath the sea surface in other areas.

They can be found throughout much of Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, northern Asia, and Siberia. The habitat extends from Siberia and Alaska to Korea, with clusters having been discovered in all of these locations.

catching snow crab
Snow Crab Fisherman

Prey and Predators

Snow crabs are commonly prey for other species, and they are affected by overfishing and climate change. Their flesh is sought after by seafood lovers.

With the need for meat comes a danger of overfishing, with certain counts of smaller snow crabs having dropped.

Warming sea temperatures might endanger these crabs, since they are less likely to flourish in conditions of more than 41 degrees Fahrenheit, which might result in a scarcity if water temperatures remain high.

Who eats them?

Humans are one of the most important predators of these crabs. Halibut have been known to consume these crustaceans as well, and larger snow crabs have been seen eating juvenile specimens due to their small size. Other predators include seals, squid, and Alaskan king crabs.

Snow crabs, unlike other species of crabs, are protected by an outer shell that makes it difficult for predators to kill them. Their claws serve as a further barrier against predation.

What Do Snow Crabs Eat?

The crabs are known to consume a wide range of creatures, including smaller crabs, shrimp, and plankton. When food is sparse, they may scavenge for it as well.

Fishing and Cooking of Snow Crab

Many commercial fishing businesses are interested in Snow Crab because of the profits they realize. The most common approach to collect this crab is with live traps that sink to the seafloor level.

The snow crab season in the Pacific is January to April, while the Atlantic snow crab season is April to August. In 2020, approximately 278 million lbs. of snow crab were taken. The flavor of this crab is salty and sweet, and its texture is firm. It’s commonly shredded, just like corned beef.

The United States, Denmark, and China consume the most wild Alaskan snow crab. Other countries that eat a lot of this crab include Russia, Japan, and South Korea. It has 90 calories and 18.5 grams of protein in every ounce, making it an excellent source of nutrition for use in a variety of dishes.

Far northern waters have been known to yield snow crabs, which are caught as far north as the Arctic Ocean and from Newfoundland to Greenland and beyond in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Sea of Japan, the Bering Sea, Norton Sound, and even as far south as California.

In 2019, the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled that the species is a sedentary species that dwells on the sea floor and is thus subject to the United Nations Law of the Sea.

crab on a plate
Cooked Snow Crab

Lifespan and Reproduction

Snow crabs may live 20 years or more. Female crabs may lay up to 100,000 eggs if enough food is available. Learn more about the Snow Crab vs King Crab.

The larvae hatch in the spring and go through several development phases, called molting, throughout their lives. At four years of age or later, these crabs molt for the final time, signifying sexual maturity. Females generally mature sooner than males.

Interesting Snow Crab Facts

  1. After being cooked, it is named for the hue of its flesh, which is white.
  2. Spend most of its life on the seafloor
  3. It lives in groups known as clusters
  4. It has four pairs of legs, one pair of claws.
  5. It eat mostly brittle creatures that it crushes with its claws


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