Larval Dungeness crab research

Status: current

April 1, 2020 - ongoing

Project summary:

How can a water bottle, some funnels, and a light support sustainable fisheries? As a member of the Pacific Northwest Crab Research Group, we are part of a network that monitors larval Dungeness crab populations to better understand the population dynamics of this important species.

Larval Dungeness crab monitoring at PTMSC

Where, when and how many larval Dungeness crab are there? Are there distinct populations of Dungeness crab that should be managed separately? Can larval abundance predict future adult abundance? These are the questions fisheries managers are proactively seeking answers for with the help of a network of researchers and volunteers. 

Light attracts crab megalopae (the toddler-esque stage of crab development) into a specially designed trap. From spring through summer, the traps are deployed at locations throughout the Salish Sea. Overnight, the floating trap collects zooplankton and other small (0.5-0.04cm) marine life that are drawn by the light. Each morning the trap is emptied, the catch sorted, and Dungeness crabs are counted. Then the sample is released back into the water.

lowering the light trap

Fully grown Dungeness crab.

collecting plankton from the light trap

Bucket of plankton to be sorted.


Larval crab monitoring at PTMSC – a brief intro

August 31, 2023

A brief  visual intro to larval crab monitoring.

Dungeness Crab in the Salish Sea, a webinar on collaborative research


Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe “The Strong People”
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