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  • Christopher Stephens, MSc

Red Rock Crabs: BC's Hidden Hunters

Colorful Pacific Crab Built to Break Open Shellfish


Crabby? A Red Rock Crab displays its Shellfish Crushing Claws


If you turn over a larger rock in the intertidal or subtidal zones of British Columbia, parts of Mexico, Alaska or the Continental US, you may encounter a Red rock crab, Cancer productus. This fearsome and intimidating crab really is red when alive, unlike lobsters which are actually quite drab and turn only red when cooked.


The claws on this bruiser of a crab are immediately apparent, being massive and black tipped, contrasting with the creature's red coloration. These claws are serrated, ridged, heavy and contain sizable quantities of muscle, for they are specifically purposed for breaking open shellfish. Shellfish have lots to gain by avoiding Red rock crab encounters, for a clam, snail or scallop caught by this crustacean will be crushed, then eaten. Not only mollusks, but those pesky shelled crustaceans, barnacles are "harvested" by hungry Red rock crabs, which break the shells open before extracting the meat.


If you didn't notice the claws when you scooped it up, you will be painfully aware once the crabby crustacean takes hold. You definitely want to take some precautions in handling this impressive sea animal! A finger or toe in the way could suffer some notable damage! How big do Red rock crabs get? Bigger than you might expect. These are no little shore crabs, but bonafide meal material that can have a carapace width of 8 inches. The meat is enjoyable, subject to harvest, licencing and marine pollution safety regulations.


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