The Big Blue Ocean Exploration

Blue-colored red king crab caught off Nome

Rare specimen piques curiosity of locals and other fishermen, who had never seen one; expert: 'My hunch is it’s just a very rare mutation'

Bluecrab

Frank MacFarland displays blue-colored king crab caught off Nome; photo by Scott Kent/ADFG

For at least the second time this year, a Bering Sea fisherman has caught an extremely rare blue-colored red king crab.

The latest specimen, which could also be described as lavender-colored, was discovered in a pot on July 4 by Nome fisherman Frank MacFarland.

Scott Kent, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, saw MacFarland unloading his odd catch, snapped a picture, and sent the image to the Nome Nugget.

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What a red king crab is supposed to look like; photo via Wikipedia

It became front-page news, and the buzz about town, because even the many crabbers who live in Nome had never seen a red king crab crab that was any other color but red.

Locals have flocked to Norton Sound Seafood Products, where the live crab is being stored, to have photos taken with the peculiar crustacean.

Red king crabs are aptly named and it remains unclear exactly why one would be so vastly different in color.

Kent, who has fielded dozens of calls and emails from people inquiring about the blue crab, told KNOM Radio: “The best answer I can give you is, I have no idea. My hunch is it’s just a very rare mutation and expressed in only few individuals within a population.”

MacFarland’s crab is alive, but its days seem numbered because the fisherman plans to have it mounted.

In January, a Japanese wholesaler discovered a blue-colored red king crab in a shipment of live crabs from Russian waters.

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Photo of lavender-colored red crab caught last January in Russian waters is courtesy of Marusan Ocean Foods, Japan

(Red king crabs are found in the Bering Sea and near the Aleutian Islands, along the coast of the Gulf of Alaska, and south to British Columbia, Canada. Also, there are populations from Hokkaido, Japan, to Cape Olyutorsk, Russia. They’re widely consumed around the world.)

Kenetsu Mikami, president of Marusan Ocean Foods, said it was the first time in his 25 years as a wholesaler that he had seen a crab with that type of coloration.

“It could be a good omen,” Mikami said.

Experts said the odd coloration could have been the result of the crab’s diet, but more likely was “a mutation causing lack of pigment.”

The catch spared debate on the Internet over whether radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster might have been the cause, but experts dismissed that notion.

That crab was being kept on display a local seafood restaurant.

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