The leucistic crab found off the coast of Sooke. (Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea/Twitter)

The leucistic crab found off the coast of Sooke. (Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea/Twitter)

White crab found off Vancouver Island is never seen in Canada

The odds of the crab’s random leucism mutation are as low as one in six million

More obvious than a diamond in the rough was the lone white Dungeness crab fishers off the coast of Sooke B.C. found in their haul earlier this week.

The full-sized Dungeness crab doesn’t have its typical grey-brown hue with tinges of purple and white-tipped claws. Instead, its claws and legs are completely white while its shell is a cream colour.

Albinism was the first suspect for the crustacean’s colouration. But on closer inspection, the crab’s only partial lack of pigment suggests leucism. Albinism is associated with a complete lack of pigment.

The odds of the crab’s random colour mutation are between one in one million to one in six million, said Kit Thornton, head of animal care at Sidney’s Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. “As far as I know, we’ve never seen one in Canada,” she said. “Most of us (at the centre) will never see this again in our lifetime.”

RELATED STORY: Invasive crab spotted near Sooke

The bottom feeder will be fed instead of food; the crab was donated to the centre, where it’s currently on display in the Pacific Salmon exhibit. Although it doesn’t have an official name, staff have nicknamed the crab “Walter,” Thorton said.

Thornton said Dungeness fisherman Robbie Heggelund and his crew had netted Walter five times before deciding it should be seen by the public.

“When an animal sticks out in a certain way, people can tend to make more of a connection with it,” Thornton said. “That really helps with our conservation message. We want people to connect with animals in the Salish Sea, so that they feel a passion to preserve them and conserve their habitats.”

RELATED STORY: Viral video shows Sooke resident calling out illegal crab fishers


Do you have a story tip? Email: kiernan.green@blackpress.ca.

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Hunting and FishingSalish Sea

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