Sarah Rathbone of Crabulous!

Rachel Hommel

Sarah Rathbone of Crabulous!

Sarah Rathbone of Crabulous!

Catching Crabs off Santa Cruz Island, Selling in Santa Barbara

Name: Sarah Rathbone

Farm:Crabulous! – Fresh Local Seafood

Location: The west end of Santa Cruz Island, offering a great temperature gradient for various crab species.

What they catch: Rock crab, spider crab, lobster, snails, octopus (and any other “incidental catch” trappings)

Where to buy: Sunday farmer’s market at Camino Real Marketplace. Additionally, starting in July, items will be featured as part of Rathbone’s Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program. Two pick-up locations will be offered: Wednesdays,5-7 p.m. at Backyard Bowls in La Cumbre Plaza, or Thursdays,5-7 p.m., at Goodland Kitchen in Old Town Goleta.

In season now: Fortunately, rock crabs have a year-round mating season, preferring the warmer waters of Southern California and the unique microclimate of the Santa Cruz Islands.

Their story: An alumnus of the UCSB Marine Science Institute, Rathbone has always been fascinated with sustainable fishing methods and marine ecology. After meeting fellow fisherman Charlie Graham, she embarked on a full-time fishing crew in 2011, charting the waters of the Santa Cruz Island for lobster. They soon discovered that the Santa Barbara Channel offered an active breeding ground for warmer water crabs.

While more challenging to open, rock crabs are not under the same fishing demands as Dungeness crabs, making them a more sustainable and versatile choice. Additionally, Rathbone explained, “With the traps we’ve created, neither the marine life nor ocean floor is being harmed. There is no dragging and we are mandated to only catch certain species. Choosing to eat or choosing to mate, we give the crabs a lot of free will when catching them.”

When choosing the right crab, Rathbone suggests looking for an older crab with dark coloration. These age spots indicate the meat is filled out and therefore easier to cook. Check out Rathbone’s latest recipe for a savory year-round delight.

Featured Recipe

Sweet and Spicy Beer Steamed Rock Crab


1 bottle amber beer (preferably flat)

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp seafood seasoning

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp cayenne pepper

2-3 lbs crab claws, crab legs, or whole crab

Preparation: In a large covered stockpot, bring the beer, sugar, seafood seasoning, vinegar, and spices to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the crabs and stir well. Cover and steam for 5-7 minutes (10-15 minutes for raw crabs) stirring well a few times. Remove crabs and serve hot.

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