Māori Name: pāpaka
Name Scientific: Ovalipes catharus
Availability: Year round
Attributes Length: 10–13cm carapace
They are found around New Zealand and southern Australia where the species is widely distributed on sandy beaches in shallow water.
Paddle crab has bright, white flesh that is crisp and moist.
Paddle crabs belong to the Portunidae family (swimming crabs). Related species: Red crab (Chaceon bicolor) is another species of crab found in New Zealand. Red crabs are also known as Red rock crabs, or Crystal crabs (Australia).
The paddle crab is found off sandy beaches, and in harbours and estuaries throughout mainland New Zealand, the Chatham Islands and east and south Australia. Paddle crabs were introduced into the Quota Management System in 2002. Commercial interest was first realised in 1977-78, when good numbers of large crabs were caught off Westshore Beach, Napier. Landings increased in the early fishery from 775kg in 1977 to 306 tonnes in 1985 and 403 tonnes in 1995-96, however, they have since decreased significantly in response to market conditions.
Paddle crabs are caught with baited traps or pots.
Did You Know
Male Paddle crabs share a courting technique with cicadas. The crab rubs its leg against a rasp under its claw, 'stridulating' to attract a mate.
The flesh of the paddle crab is white, crisp, moist and delicious. To dispatch your paddle crab,force a sharp knife through the indented spot just above the tail flap on its underside - this kills the crab instantly - or put it in boiling water. Cook by boiling for 10 minutes in a small amount of water, then rinse in cold water. Hold the back legs and with the crab facing you, lift the shell off. Remove the gills and extract the flesh, cutting the crab in half with a sharp knife. Separate out the legs, claws and body and carefully extract the meat from each part of the body. Bake; bbq; steam; or fry. Particularly delicious with chilli.
Paddle crabs are most commonly available whole. They should smell pleasantly briny but not pungent.