Opilio crab, also known as snow crab, refers to the "real" or "true" crabs. As befits a crab, it has a body covered with a strong shell and 5 pairs of walking legs.
The common snow crab or Opilio crab (lat. Chionoecetes opilio) is a species of crustacean that lives in the seas of the Northern Basin at a depth of 50 to 400 meters. Originally, Opilio crabs were found only on the Pacific coast of Kamchatka, but over time it spontaneously populated the eastern part of the Barents Sea and some other regions, for example, the northern territorial waters of Canada. Opilio crabs were first discovered in the Barents Sea in 1996.
Although no special measures were taken to populate the snow crab in the northwestern seas, it coped well with this task on its own. Opilio larvae «moved» to the Barents Sea in the ballast waters of ships.
The snow crab is much smaller than the famous King crab: while King crabs can weigh 10 kg or more, even the largest male Opilios rarely reach a mass of 3 kg. Opilio females are twice as small as males.
The body of the Opilio Crab consists of a head-chest and five pairs of limbs. The cephalothorax is covered with a chitinous shell, a carapace. The shell is smooth, without spikes and outgrowths typical for Red King Crab. The carpax protects the internal organs and maintains the proportions of the pear-shaped body. The first pair of limbs ends with powerful claws that help to capture and grind food.
Opilio crab meat is both a delicacy and a dietary product. It is rich in protein practically does not contain fat. Snow crab meat dishes are often served in restaurants, but they are also easy to prepare at home.
Opilio crab meat contains significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin PP and B vitamins. Selenium, sulfur, phosphorus, iron, manganese and many other micro and macroelements are also present in the meat of the snow crab.
And, of course, Opilio dishes gained high popularity due to the wonderful sweetish taste of tender meat. And to try this delicacy, snow crab meat simply should be boiled or baked.
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The courtship ritual is interesting: a male snow crab grabs a female with the front pair of "legs" and literally "carries her in his arms" for about two weeks. All this time, the male is starving, because his claws are busy. The female also has a hard time – she changes her shell, sheds, while staving off less fortunate gentlemen at the same time. After fertilization, the female hides 150,000 eggs in special holes on her swimming legs, where the kids "ripen" from one to three years. At this moment, "the groom" literally leaves his chosen one. In most cases, he goes to look after the next female crab, while the «pregnant» bride has to survive on her own – with a soft, not yet completely hardened, shell and a bunch of future crabs "in her arms".
The complexities of the mating ritual of snow crabs are compensated by a complete indifference towards the already hatched cubs. Tiny crabs, barely born, are washed off the mother's limbs by streams of water and set off on their first independent voyage. They will grow, molt and, if they are lucky, acquire their own offspring – but this will happen not sooner than in 4-5 years.
The NWFC catches and processes adult male Opilio Snow crab in the Barents and Norwegian seas. We release the females and juveniles back into the sea. We process the rest of the catch on the our vessels, preserving its best nutritional qualities, freshness and taste of the sea.