Soft-shell crab is usually shipped live, however it is common for the blue crab to perish in transit. Smell is the only real indicator of freshness, and any crab that has an odor resembling ammonia should not be served. Some buyers suggest that the summer peak is the best time to buy crab. The primary producing states are Maryland, North & South Carolina and Louisiana: Maryland's colder waters and estuaries produce a blue crab high in flavorable fat; Carolina blue crabs are considered second to Maryland; and Louisiana provides options for price sensitive customers who like a larger crab.
The best way to store a soft-shell crab is in cool, moist packaging. While producers suggest that the shelf life for soft-shell crabs is 5 - 6 days that includes all of the shipping and processing time; In the Midwest a shelf life of 2 - 3 days can be expected; and on the West Coast a shelf life of 1 - 2 days can be expected. Soft-shells are split up into five grades; whales (5.5"+), jumbos (5"-5.5"), primes (4.5"-5"), hotels (4"-4.5") and mediums (3.5"-4")
Blue crabs, found along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, grow and reproduce quickly, making their inherent vulnerability to fishing pressure low. However, their abundance fluctuates greatly. Some populations have experienced a drastic decline due to habitat loss from coastal development and pollution. Blue crab fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay and parts of the Gulf of Mexico have shown a declining trend compared to historic levels. While not considered overfished, several states list the crabs as a species of concern.
Habitat impacts ( Wild)
These crabs are primarily caught using traps, which have a moderate effect on local habitats, depending on the area. They’re also caught with dredges and bottom trawls that can do great damage to marine habitats. Some blue crabs are caught with a series of baited droplines called trotlines, which are primarily set in sand and silt.
The main bycatch in this fishery consists of juveniles that can easily be released alive. Many states require crab pots to have escape rings to reduce this kind of bycatch. Protected diamondback terrapin turtles can also be negatively impacted by interactions with blue crab traps. The Monterey Bay Aquarium cited a survey that called crab pot mortality one of the major threats to diamondback terrapins.
Blue crab is managed state-by-state and each one has regulations in place. These measures include area restrictions, minimum size limits, bycatch limits and gear restrictions. Overall, blue crab fishery management is considered moderately effective by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. However, the blue crab fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are overcapitalized and declining blue crab populations could be an indication that fishery management measures may not be meeting conservation goals.