Commissioner Adam H. Putnam

Florida Agriculture: 500 Years in the Making

Florida Seafood Products

Blue Crab

Blue Crab

Blue crabs are commercially harvested with baited traps along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in bays, sounds, channels, and river mouths. The bulk of the harvest comes from Wakulla, Citrus, and Duval counties. Blue crab is one of Florida’s top 10 seafood products in dockside value and ranks in the top five in terms of pounds harvested.

The blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) has a dark green or olive green hard shell and five pairs of bright blue legs. The undersides of the body and legs are white. Only the first pair of legs is equipped with pincers or claws. Male and female claws are various shades of blue on the top, but the tips of the female’s claws are bright red.

Blue crab is harvested and eaten in two stages of its lifecycle, when the exoskeleton is hard and also when it’s soft. The soft-shell blue crab is a hard-shell crab that has shed its shell by molting. “Peeler” crabs (crabs in the process of molting) are held in water-filled tanks and watched closely until they form their soft shells and shed their hard ones. Then they are plucked out of the tanks and rushed to market. Soft-shell crabs are considered a delicacy and can be eaten shell and all.

Hard-shell crabs are sold live or steamed to restaurants and seafood markets. They are also sold to picking houses, where the delicate meat is extracted from the shell, usually by hand. Picked crab meat is available fresh or pasteurized.

Live blue crabs should have some leg movement when purchased. Store them in a moist environment at 50 degrees Fahrenheit in a bag, cardboard box, or other breathable container. Do not store them directly on ice. Fresh blue crab meat should be stored on ice in the coldest part of the refrigerator and used within seven to 10 days. Pasteurized blue crab meat in unopened containers can be stored up to six months in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Once opened, pasteurized crab meat needs to be used within three days.

Sweet, creamy blue crab is high in protein and low in fat. It contains calcium, iron, and vitamins as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to heart health.

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Division of Marketing and Development
Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing
The Collins Building, Innovation Park
2051 East Dirac Drive
Tallahassee, Florida 32310

Martin May
(850) 617-7280
(850) 617-7281 Fax

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