Paddock To Plate

Blue Swimmer Crabs: World-Class Seafood

Matt Moran visits Western Australia’s Gascoyne Region and heads to world heritage listed Shark Bay for blue swimmer crab. Find out more! 

Once regarded as a by-catch of the trawl industry, the blue swimmer crab is now considered world-class seafood. 

Multi award-winning, Peter Jecks, is the Managing Director of Abacus Fisheries in Carnarvon, Western Australia. Peter is a leading innovator in the seafood industry and one of the key figures responsible for turning Shark Bay Blue Swimmer Crab into a fine dining must-have

Get Matt's Blue Swimmer Crab Salad recipe here!

After building a solid reputation across Australia as a quality supplier of blue swimmer crab, Peter’s business came to a grinding halt in 2011 when strong cyclones severely affected crab numbers in the World Heritage listed Shark Bay fishing grounds.

With 34 years’ experience in the industry Peter is relying on his passion and enthusiasm of crabbing to help rebuild his business. 

• Shark Bay is home to the largest population of blue swimmer crabs in Australia.
• Abacus is the only company in Australia that catches, processes and sells whole frozen crab on the export market.
• The processing starts on the water, where the crabs are first submerged into an ice slurry to sedate them and ensure they’re kept in pristine condition. They’re then graded according to market and condition. On return to the home port of Carnarvon, the crabs are immediately processed. They are cooked, graded or packed whole or further processed into meat or Mornay.
• Abacus use pot catching practices which ensure no by-catch is taken and that allows for the undersized crabs to the returned to the bay unharmed.
• Abacus produce 300-350 tonne of crab per year and their average daily catch is about 600-700kg per vessel, twice a day.
• They mainly catch male crabs as “females are your future” and are needed to repopulate stocks. The pots they use are specifically designed to attract males, not females. They have a steep slope on them and as the females are generally lazy they will not bother climbing it, but the males will.
• For every 1kg of crab they land, they get 1.2kg yield i.e. they sell whole crabs but also crab shells, and make crab stock from the water they cook them in.
• Crab shell is often worth more than the crab meat.
• The shell is used to make valuable chitin which makes glucosamine. It’s used in medical and agriculture applications. From crab shell, you recover approximately fifty perfect of chitin.

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