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Is it possible to keep crabs alive on an airplane?

I just moved to Arizona and met many people who have never had Dungeness crab, so I thought I'd bring some back from SF during crab season. Any advice on how to pack and keep them alive for the 6-hr trip? TIA.

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  1. the cargo hold generally doesn't freeze, just gets really cold at that altitude. it'd be like chucking them in the fridge for 6 hours. they'll get sluggish and dormant, but that's about it - remember their natural habitat is icy cold water. still I'd ask the vendor for advice, I'm sure they've answered it before. I took fresh (but already dead) Dungeness to PHX once (granted it was a direct OAK - PHX flight) and it was fine the next day.

    1. Packed in checked baggage with seaweed in a hard- wall cooler with a few small ice packs will be OK.

      1. +1 Veggo's advice.

        And if no seaweed, use wet strips of newspaper. Do NOT submerge them in water. The crabs need just enough moisture to keep their gills wet so they can get oxygen from the air. If they are submerged, they will quickly use up all the oxygen in the water and then they will suffocate. Enjoy your crabs. Your friends are lucky.

        1. Where in Arizona? I find it hard to believe that you can't find live dungeness crab in a larger Asian market.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ferret

            Yeah, but the experience is not comparable. There is a difference between live (caught in the past day or two) versus live (caught weeks ago and stuck in a tank). The meat on the former is firmer, sweeter and much tastier, in large part because I think the crab in a tank literally starts to lose muscle mass due to the inactivity.

            Just like there is a difference between the crabs you get when you go on one of those fishing charters versus what you buy at a Ranch 99 in the bay area.

          2. I would think so.My son's Navy friends used to make 'training runs' to Maine for lobsters from Ca.

            1. Why are you worried about how to pack them? The place where you buy them should do it for you. Usually you tell them you're taking the crabs on a plane and they pack them accordingly.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pdxgastro

                pdx is right. I brought a crab from SFO to Chicago once, and let the Fisherman's Wharf guy do the boxing. Wife unpacked and cooked it so I don't know the details. I often wondered what it looked like on the xray.

              2. This is kindof an answer.......

                Many years ago I was waiting for my luggage at the old Hong Kong Kai Tak airport when a large plastic rectangular bucket came down the luggage chute and bumped up against the carousel rail near me. If that hadn't caught my attention, the 50 or so live crabs that were crawling all over the broken package in the bucket..... and by then crawling out of the bucket onto the carousel........ would have.

                So......... YES! ;o]]]]]]]]]

                1 Reply
                1. re: Midlife

                  not easily finding live crab in AZ is one thing, but HK?

                2. I wonder if crabs need air to breathe, like clams and oysters and mussels and such. I have read that, and in my experience, clams etc. would suffocate and die if kept in an airtight plastic bag... Open to air, they last longer.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: aqn

                    I have heard their gills work in air, just not as efficient as in water and slows down the metabolism. which is a good thing for transit.

                  2. I always buy them a seat in the cabin, and then have the flight attendant deploy the oxygen mask, over them. I make sure that they share that.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I've sat next to my share of crabs.