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Blue Swimmer Crab (Portunus pelagicus) Photographs and Information

Other common names include sand crab, blue manna crab, blue crab, swimming crab and sandy crab.

Blue Swimmer Crabs are swimming crabs and they have their last pair of legs modified as swimming paddles.  Their carapace is rough in texture.  It is very broad and has a prominent projection on each side.  The crabs claws are long and slender.  Blue Swimmer Crabs vary in colour from brown through blue to purple with pale mottling.

Blue Swimmer Crabs are widely distributed throughout the Indo-West Pacific region from east Africa to Japan, Tahiti and northern New Zealand.  They are also present in the Mediterranean Sea.  In Australia, Blue Swimmer Crabs inhabit coastal waters from the south coast of New South Wales, up and around to Perth in Western Australia.

They live in a wide range of inshore and continental shelf areas, including sandy, muddy or algal and seagrass habitats from the intertidal zone to at least 50 metres in depth.  They move to deeper water as they age and in response to changes in water temperature and inshore salinity.

Blue Swimmer crabs are active swimmers, but when they are inactive they usually bury themselves in the bottom sediment, leaving only their eyes, antennae and gill chamber opening exposed.

Blue Swimmer Crabs form breeding pairs and mating takes place during the late summer (January to March) moult of the females.  Mature males moult some weeks before the maturing females and each carries a female clasped beneath him for 4 to 10 days before she moults.  Mating occurs immediately after the female has moulted and when her shell is still soft. 

Female crabs spawn up to 2 million eggs per batch.  Blue Swimmer crab eggs and larvae are planktonic.  The eggs hatch after about 15 days at 24°C water temperature.  During the larval stage, the crabs may drift as far as 80 kilometres out to sea before returning to inshore waters to settle.

Inshore areas of southern Queensland account for approximately half of the commercial catch in Australia.  Other important commercial catch areas are the New South Wales coast, Spencer Gulf in South Australia, Cockburn Sound near Fremantle and the Swan-Avon River near Perth in Western Australia. Blue Swimmer Crabs form a significant part of the bycatch of many prawn trawlers.

Most of the catch is marketed in Australia, although there is a small export market.

There has been successful attempts at culturing Blue Swimmer Crabs in Australia.  The species is cultured in Japan and other Asian countries.

Minimum size applies in all states. 

Females in berry (with eggs) are protected in New South Wales and all females are protected in Queensland and Western Australia.

Cooked Blue Swimmer Crabs with Prawns on Ice

Blue Swimmer Crab, blue swimming crab, sand crab

map showing where Blue Swimmer Crabs are found in Australian Waters.

Cooked blue swimmer crabs, whole cooked crabs, swimming crabs cooked

Did you know?
Crabs have blue blood, Worms have green blood, and Starfish have clear

How a Crab Sheds its shell or "Moults":
A crab’s growth isn’t continuous, but results from a series of moults that happen when it reaches the size of its current shell. Moulting is triggered by hormones. A new ‘cuticle’ (hard protective layer) is secreted under the old shell. The crab rapidly absorbs water, splitting its shell along suture lines, then backs out of the old shell. Substances stored within the crab’s body are rapidly redeposited to harden the new cuticle into a larger shell. The fluid in the body is replaced with meat during a period when the crab feeds voraciously.

Don't take home a crab that has recently moulted their shell if you want a lot of meat! For a Meaty crab choose one that has a shell with maybe some scaring or algae growth, blunt teeth on their claws and if you gently press the shell, there should be no movement.

Scientific Name Portunus pelagicus
Location Australia wide
Season Available all year
Size 500g
Australian Species Code 28 911005
Taste, Texture Delicate, fishy taste.  Fine texture.


Nutritional Information
For every 100 grams raw product
for Blue Swimmer Crab meat.

Kilojoules na
Cholesterol 58 mg
Sodium na
Total fat (oil) 0.9 g
Saturated fat 22% of total fat
Monounsaturated fat 20% of total fat
Polyunsaturated fat 57% of total fat
Omega-3, EPA 137 mg
Omega-3, DHA 90 mg
Omega-6, AA 86 mg

Other Blue Swimmer Crab Links:


Recipes for Crab from How To Cook Fish

Exporters of Blue Crab
Importers of Blue Crab
Processors of Blue Crab
Wholesale Suppliers of Blue Crab
Agents for Blue Crab

Exporters of Canned Crabmeat
Importers of Canned Crabmeat
Processors of Canned Crabmeat
Wholesale Suppliers of Canned Crabmeat
Seafood Agents for Canned Crabmeat

To grow, it is necessary for crabs to shed their hard external shell. Just before moulting, the skin under the hard shell (exoskeleton) secretes substances which sever the connections between it and the shell. A thin layer of new shell is excreted just underneath the old shell. The crab then takes in water to cause a split in the old shell at the point where the carapace joins the flaps. The animal then climbs backwards out of the old shell. The crab must swell rapidly to stretch the wrinkled new skeleton out to its full size before it hardens. This is done by taking in water. After the shell is adjusted to its new size, the skin secretes substances which oxidise and harden the shell.

During the moulting process, prior to hardening of the new shell, the crab is extremely vulnerable to predation and will often go into hiding.  (This is when you get Soft Shell Crab)

Females with external eggs are totally protected and must be returned to the water immediately.


Male and female crab identification:
male and female crab identification, how to tell sex of crab

Blue Swimmer Crab showing eyes, mouth and claws

Crab Photos:

crabmeat from claws, blue swimmer crab claw meat, swimming crab meat, crabmeat crabmeat chunks, blue swimmer crab meat, meat from crabs, swimming crab crabmeat, blue swimmer crab meat
Blue Swimmer Claw Meat Blue Swimmer Crab Meat Blue Swimmer Crab Meat

Cooked Blue Swimmer Crabs on Ice, 2 blue swimming crabs

Fishing for Blue Swimmer Crab:

Distribution - Blue swimmer crabs are found in coastal waters from Cape Naturaliste in Western Australia, around the top end to NSW. The Victorian border is the southern limit for distribution of the species on the east coast. A popular method of catching crabs is to use an old nylon stocking with bait in it (like cut yellowtail yakkas and oily fish like mullet - Chicken feet and necks, squid and fish heads are also good bait for blue swimmer crabs - but make sure it is fresh).

Cooking Blue Swimmer Crab:

Cooking Tips: For live crabs allow 10 minutes per 500g to cook. Steam or boil in salted water. How to humanely kill a Crab for cooking. Recipes for Blue Swimming Crab including Pan fried soft shell crab, Singapore Chili Crab, Crab Cakes, Video showing how to prepare a Blue swimmer crab for cooking...

Commercial Fishing for Blue Swimmer Crab:

The main apparatus used by commercial fishers to catch mud crabs and blue swimmer crabs are wire-mesh crab pots and trawl-mesh (nylon) crab pots. The pots are set on the bottom, generally in estuarine or near-shore areas for mud crabs and near-shore and offshore areas for blue swimmer crabs. Fishers operating in offshore waters usually set their gear in trotlines of about 10 pots per line. Most blue swimmers are sold domestically. There is virtually no overseas export. The main product form is fresh-chilled, with a portion of the catch sold as crab meat and processed derivatives. Frozen meat is imported into Australia from Japan and Vietnam and whole from New Zealand. ‘Blue Crab’ imported from USA is a different species (Callinectes sapidus). Companies and contacts that buy and sell Blue Swimming Crab are listed.

More Links, Publications and Resources for Blue Swimmer Crab:

Suppliers of Pasteurized Crabmeat, Trade Seafood Industry Directory companies and their contacts who are exporters of blue crab, importers of blue swimming crab, crab processors and wholesalers. Government of Western Australia Department of Fisheries Fact sheet on Blue swimmer crab - A great publication about Blue Swimmer Crabs, including distribution, general facts, their life cycle, pictures showing mating crabs, a berried female blue swimmer crab, predators and prey of blue swimmer crabs, about commercial fishing in Western Australia.

Top view of a blue swimmer crab, blue swimming crab, blue manna crab

cut crab, blue swimming crab cut, swimming crab cut sections, cut sand crab

Blue Swimming Crab | Blue Swimmer Crab | Blue Manna Crab Cut Blue Swimming Crab sections




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