American Oceans

The Difference Between Bairdi Crab and King Crab

Bairdi crab and king crab are two of the most popular crab species in the world. These crabs are often compared due to their similarities in appearance and taste. However, there are some key differences between the two that make them unique.

a king crab on a white background

One of the main differences between bairdi crab and king crab is their habitat. Bairdi crab is typically found in the Bering Sea, while king crab is found in both the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Bairdi crab is also known for its preference for deeper waters, while king crab is found in both shallow and deep waters.

Another difference between bairdi crab and king crab is their size. King crab is generally larger than bairdi crab, with some king crab specimens reaching weights of up to 20 pounds. Bairdi crab, on the other hand, typically weighs between 1 and 2 pounds. This size difference can affect the way the crabs are prepared and cooked, as well as their market value.

Understanding Bairdi and King Crabs

Bairdi Crab or Tanner Crab inside aquarium

Bairdi crab and king crab are both decapod crustaceans and are prized for their meat. However, they have distinct differences that set them apart. Bairdi crab, also known as Tanner crab, is smaller than king crab and has a sweeter, more delicate flavor. King crab, on the other hand, is larger and has a firmer texture and a slightly brinier taste.

Bairdi crab is found in the North Pacific Ocean, particularly in the Bering Sea, while king crab is found in the same region as well as the Gulf of Alaska. Bairdi crab is typically harvested from depths of 300 to 1,200 feet, while king crab is caught at depths ranging from 20 to 200 feet.

In terms of appearance, bairdi crab has a more elongated body and longer legs than king crab. Bairdi crab also has a distinctive red color on its legs and claws, while king crab has a more uniform reddish-brown color. Additionally, bairdi crab has a spiky carapace, while king crab has a smoother one.

When it comes to cooking, bairdi crab is often steamed or boiled, while king crab is typically boiled or grilled. Both types of crab are often served with melted butter or a light sauce to complement their natural flavors.

Geographical Locations

Bairdi crabs and king crabs are both found in various geographical locations, although their distribution patterns differ slightly. This section will explore the different regions where these crabs can be found, including Alaskan waters, the Pacific Ocean, and other locations.

Alaskan Waters

Bairdi crabs and king crabs are both commonly found in Alaskan waters, particularly in the Bering Sea, Bristol Bay, and the Aleutian Islands. The Alaskan king crab is a highly sought-after species that is managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The bairdi crab, also known as the tanner crab, is another commercially valuable species found in Alaskan waters.

Pacific Ocean

Both bairdi crabs and king crabs can also be found in the Pacific Ocean, although their distribution patterns differ. Bairdi crabs are typically found in the northern Pacific Ocean, including Japan and Canada. King crabs, on the other hand, are found in the northwest Atlantic Ocean, as well as in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Alaska and Russia.

Other Locations

While bairdi and king crabs are primarily found in Alaskan waters and the Pacific Ocean, they can also be found in other locations. For example, British Columbia is home to a small population of bairdi crabs, while Norway has a small population of king crabs.

Physical Characteristics

two bairdi crabs underwater

Bairdi crab and king crab are both large crustaceans that can grow to impressive sizes. However, king crabs are generally larger than bairdi crabs. King crabs can weigh up to 10 kg (22 lb) and have a leg span of up to 1.8 m (5.9 ft), while bairdi crabs typically weigh between 0.5 to 2 kg (1.1 to 4.4 lb) and have a leg span of up to 60 cm (2 ft).


Both bairdi crab and king crab have a similar body shape, with a hard exoskeleton and ten walking legs. However, there are some key differences in their appearance. King crabs have larger pincer claws than bairdi crabs, which they use to catch and crush their prey. In contrast, bairdi crabs have smaller pincers that are better suited for manipulating their food.

In terms of color, bairdi crabs are usually a reddish-brown color with white spots on their legs, while king crabs are typically a reddish-brown color with a spiky, armored appearance. Additionally, king crabs have a distinct “crown” on their heads, which is absent in bairdi crabs.

Diet and Eating Habits

a giant king crab underwater

Both Bairdi crab and King crab are omnivorous, but their diets differ slightly. Bairdi crab feeds on a variety of prey, including clams, worms, and small crustaceans. They are known to be opportunistic feeders and will consume whatever is available in their environment.

On the other hand, King crab has a more specialized diet, primarily feeding on clams and other mollusks. They have strong claws that are adapted for cracking open the shells of their prey. King crab also consumes small crustaceans and worms, but they make up a smaller portion of their diet.

Both crab species have different eating habits. Bairdi crab is known to be more active during the day, while King crab is more active at night. This difference in activity patterns may be due to their preferred prey and the availability of food in their respective environments.

Health Factors

a bairdi crab holding another crab under a coral reef

Both Bairdi crab and King crab are highly nutritious seafood options. They are both low in fat and calories and high in protein. However, when it comes to health factors, there are some differences between the two species.

One important health factor to consider is iron content. Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in carrying oxygen throughout the body. King crab is a better source of iron than Bairdi crab, with 100 grams of King crab containing 1.7 milligrams of iron, while the same amount of Bairdi crab contains only 0.7 milligrams of iron.

Another health factor to consider is the presence of diseases. While both species can be affected by diseases, King crab is more susceptible to diseases than Bairdi crab. A study conducted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game found that King crab had a higher incidence of disease than Bairdi crab.

In terms of overall health, both species are considered healthy options. However, it is important to note that the health benefits of consuming crab can be offset by the method of preparation. For example, deep-frying crab can add unnecessary calories and fat, while steaming or grilling crab is a healthier option.

Sustainability and Environmental Impact

a king crab on the ocean floor

Both Bairdi and King crabs are commercially important species and are heavily fished in the Bering Sea. However, the sustainability of these fisheries has been a concern due to overfishing and environmental impacts.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has implemented measures to ensure the sustainability of these fisheries. For example, the department sets quotas for the amount of crab that can be harvested each year based on scientific assessments of the crab populations. These quotas are designed to prevent overfishing and ensure the long-term sustainability of the fisheries.

In addition, the department has also implemented regulations to reduce the environmental impact of crab fishing. For example, crab pots are required to have escape mechanisms to allow undersized or female crabs to escape. This reduces the bycatch of non-target species and ensures that the crab populations can continue to thrive.

Despite these efforts, there are still concerns about the sustainability of these fisheries. Climate change and ocean acidification are both potential threats to the crab populations, and it is important to continue monitoring these populations to ensure their long-term sustainability.

1 comment

  • I love them both, but I prefer the Alaskan king crab. we had a restaurant down here called Harbor House about 40 years ago. Wednesday night it would have all the Alaskan king crab ledge. You could eat for 1999. My brother-in-law Ann and I used to sit for hours eating so much they had to bring garbage cans 50 gallons to throw our crab legs away after we were done with them, not that I’m older I probably could only eat one or two legs. What good memories.