Edible Crab

Edible Crab ©Linda Pitkin/2020VISION

Edible crab

Scientific name: Cancer pagurus
This large crab is found around all UK shores and is identifiable by the distinctive pie-crust edge to its brown shell.

Species information


Width of body: 10-20cm

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The Edible crab is a large crab, brown in colour apart from black tips on the end of its claws. It is sometimes known as the Brown Crab. They have a thick, oval shaped shell (carapace) with a distinctive pie crust edge. That's not why they're called Edible crabs though - if you've ever had a crab sandwich at the seaside, this is what you've been eating. They live on the lower shore and out under the sea to about 100m depth. On rocky shores, they are normally hidden away under boulders. It is an active predator and will feast on mussels, whelks and even smaller crabs. They are also known to dig for prey such as razor clams and otter shells.

How to identify

A large orangey-brown crab with black tipped pincers. Their shells have a distinctive pie-crust edge.


Found around all UK coasts.

Did you know?

The Edible crab is the most commercially important species of crab in Europe: 10,000 tonnes of Edible crab are harvested from the English Channel every year. That's a lot of crab sandwiches!

How people can help

When rockpooling, be careful to leave everything as you found it - replace any rocks you turn over, put back any crabs or fish and ensure not to scrape anything off its rocky home. If you want to learn more about our rockpool life, Wildlife Trusts around the UK run rockpool safaris and offer Shoresearch training - teaching you to survey your local rocky shore. The data collected is then used to protect our coasts and seas through better management or through the designation of Marine Protected Areas. The Wildlife Trusts are working with sea users, scientists, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action Pages.