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Marine Toxic Contaminants

Species Monitored: Dungeness Crab

Dungeness crab (Cancer magister)

Dungeness crab are an important predator and prey organism at all life history stages. They have pelagic larvae (zoea and megalops stages) which are preyed on by many fishes, including copper rockfish and coho and chinook salmon. Being planktivorous, the larvae may be exposed to pollutants that are present in the water column and plankton. Once they molt into the juvenile stage, they become demersal, feeding in the benthic food web. They can readily adjust their diet, but the younger/smaller crabs generally eat mollusks, progressing to shrimp and then to fish as they age and grow. The adults have developed an evolutionary niche for feeding on mud-sand substrate, thus providing a food-web pathway through which contaminants can move from sediments to humans. Dungeness crabs are relatively short-lived with a maximum lifespan of 8 to 10 years. They move between estuaries and offshore waters seasonally.

In a 2001 focus study, the Fish Component monitored for the presence and severity of toxic contaminants in this species at a limited number of sites in Puget Sound.