Does intense fishing on males impair mating success of female Dungeness crabs?

David G. Hankin, Terrance H. Butler, Paul W. Wild, Qian Li Xue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Commercial capture of female Dungeness crabs, Cancer magister, is prohibited and minimum size limits for commercial harvest of male crabs are designed to allow most males to mate at least once before capture. Annual exploitation rates often exceed 90%, however, and the resulting scarcity of large males might reduce mating success among large females. We present new data regarding (i) sizes of male and female crabs collected in premating embraces, (ii) carapace width frequencies of female Dungeness crabs, (iii) presence of sperm plugs and sperm, and (iv) fecundity. Minimum carapace width of hard-shelled mating males typically exceeds postmolt carapace width of soft-shelled females (i), but female Dungeness crabs exceeding the minimum legal size of males usually account for less than 5% of mature adult female crabs (ii), and sublegal-sized males actively participate in mating (i). Remnants of sperm plugs, definitive indicators of mating, were found in 97.5% of recently molted large females (iii), suggesting that virtually all molting females mate regardless of size. On the basis of (ii) and (iv), hypothetical worst-case calculations, assuming that no large females could find mates, suggest that total egg production would be reduced by no more than 2-25% among molting female crabs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-669
Number of pages15
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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