Dungeness Crab - a Bay area tradition

Dungeness Crab is the largest fishery on the West Coast, dating back to 1848 San Francisco when Crab was plentiful within the Bay.  With no seasons or regulations the crabs slowly became harder and harder to catch, by the early 1930's crab could only be caught outside of the Golden Gate Bridge.  By that time Crab fishermen had started to organize and form the Crab Fishermen’s Protective Association which consisted of over 300 crab boats.  The Association gave the fishermen some much needed protection and organization, preventing them from being taken advantage of.  In the mid 1930's the Association set up off the boat sales to the general public in order to combat the low prices that they were being offered by wholesalers.  Crab fishermen didn't see any real recognition or respect until the mid 1950's when a Sicillian immigrant and crab salesman named Sam Alioto and his family began to dominate San Francisco politics.  The Alioto's established Dungeness Crab as a San Francisco staple.  Crab fishing continues to be a tradition that the entire Bay Area prepares for every November when family and friends set dates to get together and feast on our local treasure.

Our Crab: 

Our Dungeness Crab are all sourced from local, small, day boats out of Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and Bodega Bay. They are all sorted on the boat and only the largest sized crabs are set aside for us, so you always know you are getting the biggest, meatiest, and freshest crabs on the market. All of our crab are cooked the morning of delivery. We offer them whole and cracked and cleaned. Live crabs are available on special occasions (Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years) or with an order minimum and specific delivery instructions - please email us if you are interested.

Image: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

Image: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection

Is Dungeness available all year?

Unfortunately not!  Our local Dungeness season is usually open from mid-November (this year November 15th) until June; however, in recent years we have had more and more closures throughout the season.  Two major issues cause closures of the crab season: algae blooms and protests over pricing.  

Algae blooms are naturally occurring and usually predictable; however, sometimes an unexpected bloom will come close to threatening our crab, so preemptive measures are taken to close the season until the bloom has passed and crab is safe to eat.

The second issue threatening our Crab fishery centers around pricing disputes between processors and crab fishermen.  These protests usually take place during the busiest time of the season over 25 cents per pound.  The protests may seem frustrating; however, they are the result of crab fishermen organizing to ensure that they are getting a fair return for putting their life on the line - a tradition dating back to the mid-1930's.

Wonder how they are caught?

This awesome video is from 80 ft deep in the ocean.  This is a rare glimpse into the moments when the crab enter the traps.  The sustainability and efficiency of these traps are clear as you can see other bottom feeding fish that are unable to enter the trap.

Cioppino - The Dish of San Francisco

Cioppino is a classic San Francisco dish dating back to the early fishing days in the Bay Area when Italians fishermen would get  together for family meals.  This hearty stew became synonymous with Fisherman's Wharf and a delicious tradition began!

The Details

Dungeness Crab can be found outside of the Golden Gate Bridge (no crab fishing allowed in the Bay) from shallow depths to hundreds of feet deep.  Female crabs can lay up to 2.5 million eggs and can live up to 6 years, whereas males can live up to 12 years, and only males can be harvested.  They are carnivores that feed on over 40 different sea species including clams, oysters, shrimp, and worms.  Catching these guys is simple - they are caught using baited trap pots that are connected to a long line and buoy.  The traps rest along the ocean floor until crabs are lured into the cage.  They are then pulled up to the boat and (hopefully!) they are full of crab!  Once all the pots are gathered and baited again, the boats return home.  From there the crabs are brought to the docks, loaded in a refrigerated van, delivered (just 1 hour!) to our kitchen, cooked, packaged, and delivered in less than 24 hours!

Health Benefits

Eliminates Inflammation

There are many minerals and nutrients that can reduce inflammation throughout the body, including omega-3 fatty acids, copper and selenium, all of which is found in crab meat. If you suffer from arthritis, gout, or gastrointestinal inflammation issues, then ordering some crab this Wednesday may be a good idea!!

Boosts Immunity

The immune system of the body needs all the help it can get, given the barrage of pathogens and possible illnesses attacking it every day. Selenium has been directly linked to stimulating immune system activity, and also acts as an antioxidant to protect the body from chronic diseases. Antioxidants can seek out and neutralize free radicals that can cause cellular mutation. Selenium is found in significant concentrations in crab meat, along with riboflavin, which also increases the production of antioxidants in the body.

Detoxifies the Body

Our body’s immune system can’t do it all, and the other centers of detoxification for the blood and body are the kidney and liver. The phosphorus levels found in crab can help to improve kidney function, thus speeding the release of toxins from the body and helping to improve overall metabolic efficiency.

Increases Circulation

Copper is a mineral that is often overlooked in the body, and yet it has a number of important functions for regular organ function. For example, copper is a crucial part of the absorption of iron in the gut, which is one of the most important minerals for our system. Iron plays a key part in the production of red blood cells, thus boosting circulation and ensuring that oxygenated blood reaches all part of the body. This can increase the speed of healing and regrowth of cells following an injury or illness


Crab is a complete source of protein, which means that it supplies each of the 20 amino acids your body needs to make these new proteins.

Vitamin B12

Crab is an impressive source of vitamin B12!  Vitamin B12 enables your body to produce healthy red blood cells. The vitamin also supports normal brain function. Getting sufficient amounts of vitamin B12 can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Promotes Bone Health

Crab meat is high in phosphorus, making it an important for bone growth. If you are at high risk for osteoporosis or are getting older and want to guarantee an active lifestyle in the future, high-phosphorus foods like crab are very important.

Boosts Mental Activity

With its diverse range of nutrients, including copper, vitamin B2, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids, Dungeness is great for cognition and the activity of your nervous system. 

Protects the Heart

Crab meat is noticeably high in omega-3 fatty acids, and while many people assume that all fats are bad for them, omega-3s are the “good” ones that actually balance your cholesterol levels and promote anti-inflammatory activity throughout the body. This can reduce blood pressure, lower strain on the heart, and lessen your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Be sure and toss the guts!

The Department of Public Health and Fish and Wildlife are still recommending that people toss the guts and viscera.  We leave this decision up to you, but keep in mind there is a health advisory right now that only affects the body liquids under the shell.  Many restaurants and fishermen (us included) still indulge in the viscera, and we wouldn't do it any other way!

How is it caught and what does SeafoodWatch say?

Dungeness are caught locally using pots. "Pots are cages or baskets that hold species such as lobsters, crabs and Pacific cod alive until fishermen return to haul in the catch. Pots have one or more openings and are used with or without bait. The second opening allows fish or species that are below the legal catch size to escape. They’re usually placed on the seafloor, but some are designed to be in midwater. While unwanted species can be released alive and habitat impacts tend to be minimal, the entanglement of whales and other species is a serious conservation concern in some pot fisheries. Also, ghost fishing occurs when lost or abandoned pots continue to capture fish."

How old are these guys?

For the most part legal Dungeness are at least 2 years old and usually reach up to 7-8 inches, however, Dungeness over 9 inches and 3 lbs have been reported!