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NYSDEC Blue Crab Tagging Program

Mature female blue crab
6.7" mature female blue crab tagged in the Great South Bay

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The blue crab tagging program was initiated to investigate the migration patterns, habitat preferences, and life history traits of blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) in New York's waters.

Blue crabs are captured in various DEC field surveys are tagged with a yellow wire carapace tag which has a specific number attributed to each crab. This tag is attached externally to the crabs' two lateral spines.

Help DEC by Reporting Blue Crabs

If you happen to capture a tagged crab, you can contribute information to the tagging program by answering a few quick questions about your catch. Visit the Blue Crab Report a Tag Form to report a tag.

Tagging Program Procedures

Tag Information to Report

The most important information to collect when you capture a tagged crab includes; the 5-digit tag number found on the left side of the tag, the specific location of where you captured the tagged crab, and the date of when you captured the tagged crab.

If you have an internet connected smart phone or tablet you can easily report a tag at your location by visiting the Blue Crab Report a Tag Form webpage. Alternatively, you can call (631) 444-0429 and leave a message detailing the above information.

Release or Harvest Your Crab

After you have reported the above information to the "Report a Tag" form or have called the phone number on the tag, you can either:

  • release the crab with the tag still attached at the same location where it was captured, or;
  • remove the tag and harvest the crab as you usually would.

Remember, possession of female crabs with eggs is prohibited.

Collect and Report Crab Location Data

Once you have reported all the necessary information, we will email you a map showing the location where your crab was initially tagged and released, all recapture locations, as well as the time at liberty between release and recapture.

Mature female blue crab
Mature female blue crabs are identified by their
dome shaped apron and red tipped claws.

Molting Crabs

Crabs have an exoskeleton and in order for them to grow, they must molt (shed) their hard shells throughout their lifecycle!

  • Immature female blue crabs molt frequently throughout their life, but once they reach maturity they stop molting. DEC specifically tags individuals which are older and less likely to molt.
  • Males will molt throughout their life, but evidence from the tagging program suggests that those males ≥ 5" do so less frequently and therefore are more likely to retain the tag.

We only tag mature female blue crabs and male blue crabs ≥ 5".

For more information and questions about the Blue Crab Tagging Program

Questions about the Blue Crab Tagging Program can be directed to the Marine Invertebrates Unit at (631) 444-0429 or