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Red Crabs

Driving down the road in central Virginia I spotted a fellow selling clams and crabs out of the back of his pickup. I bought a bag of little necks then lifted the lid on the cooler marked crabs. Much to my surprise they were bright red. I immediately assumed they were steamed crabs. In fact, I asked the fellow if he had any live crabs, then I noticed they were moving. What I was looking at were live red crabs caught off the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Nova Scotia. The Atlantic Deep Sea Red Crab (Chaceon quinquedens) lives in deep water ranging from 1,500 to 2000 feet. The water they like stays at about 38 degrees all the time. They average about 1-2 pounds which is good size in terms of Chesapeake Bay Blue crab sizes. The red crab has an orange-red color in the wild and spindly legs. They are bigger than the popular blue crabs living in the Chesapeake Bay. The red crab does not have swimming paddles like the blue crab. They can reach a maximum weight of 3.75 lbs. Unlike the blue crab that produces off spring in multiple years, the red crab produces off spring only once every two years. The red crab has a lifespan of up to fifteen years while blue crabs unusually do not live longer than three years. Lobsterman were the first to bring up red crabs in the 1950s and were caught in traps through the 1960s. In 1964 Andreas Holmsen, professor of resource economics at the University of Rhode Island, conducted the first study of the crustacean. Commercial fishing go started in the early 1970s. A 1974 survey conducted between offshore Maryland and eastern Georges Bank determined the standing crop to be an estimated 59 million pounds. Writing in the Chesapeake Quarterly, October 2015, David Strain interviewed crustacean biologist Bradley Stevens who observed of the red crab, “You can think of these elusive animals as Maryland’s other big crab. One of several related species of crustaceans that live in various deep stretches of the Atlantic, red crabs flank the edge of the continental shelf from Nova Scotia south to the Gulf of Mexico. Blue crabs are called swimming crabs because they can use their paddle-like rear legs to propel themselves through the water. But red crabs have no choice but to walk along the seafloor. Most live at greater depths than do the king crabs Stevens studied in Alaska, surviving in habitats that are “at the frontiers of our understanding of the oceans,” says Richard Wahle, a marine biologist at the University of Maine. This sparse environment makes the Chesapeake Bay look like a spa: at these depths, there’s little to no light to navigate by, and water temperatures hover around 38 degrees Fahrenheit. The red crabs scuttle floor at depths of from 600 feet to a mile deep. Sustenance can be hard to come by, too, says Wahle, who has also studied red crabs.” Like other deep-sea animals, these crustaceans often depend on food that sinks down from the surface. The carcasses of dead whales, for example, serve up a nutrition bonanza that the crabs can sniff out from long distances away. ‘They’re very tuned into their chemical environment,’ he says. ‘They can hone in on these sources of food like oases in the desert’.” It is very possible, if you have eaten Carb Alfred at one of the Red Lobster restaurants that you may have eaten red crab. In the early years of his business Captain John Williams, who is also a crustacean biologist and owner of the Atlantic Red Crab Company sold red crab to Red Lobster Restaurant chain until 2008 for use in their making Crab Alfredo. One of his clients ships 3000 pounds of red crab to Asia weekly in specially equipped airplanes that keep them in special tanks. Asians are found of such dishes as Cua Rang Muoi and Chili crab.. Atlantic red crabs can live two to three weeks if held in properly aerated tanks in 38- to 48-degree water. On ice, their shelf life is three to four days before black spots start to appear on their bodies, something that doesn’t happen to blue crabs.

#June2017 #Archive

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