How will climate change affect Dungeness crabs?

Many travelers visit the Pacific Northwest to eat the region’s famous seafood – particularly Dungeness crabs, which are popular in crab cakes or wrestled straight out of the shell. Locals also love catching and eating the feisty creatures. One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is fishing for Dungeness crabs from a pier in Puget Sound with my daughter. We both enjoy the anticipation of not knowing what we will discover when we pull up the trap. For us, the mystery is part of the fun.

But for commercial crabbers who bring in one of the most valuable marine harvests on the U.S. West Coast, that uncertainty affects their economic future.

In my day job as a research ecologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, I study how changes in seawater’s acidity from absorbing carbon dioxide in the air, referred to as ocean acidification, may affect the success of recreational crabbers like me and the fortunes of the crabbing industry.

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About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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