Veneto, soft shell crabs, delicacies from the sea

5,5% of the national fishing fleet
27,6% Demersal trawl
5,0% Pelagic trawl
22,6% Hydraulic dredges
44,9% Small-scale fisheries


Locally known as “moeca or moleca”, the common crab “Carcinus mediterraneus” is considered a delicacy when caught in the few hours between leaving its old shell and forming a new one. In the Veneto region this term is also associated with the effigy of the winged lion of St. Mark, the symbol of the city, rising from the waters (“el leon en moeca”).

Fishing for this speciality takes place in spring and autumn and is only carried out in the lagoon of Venice, in areas of Burano, Giudecca and Chioggia, with the special bottom-set gillnets (trezze) that are positioned on the bed of the shallow lagoon and which have cylindrical traps (pots) at the end that collect the crabs. After they have been caught the crabs are taken in jute bags to processing plants they are sorted. The bags are emptied on special tables (Gorne), and here they are selected according to their biological stage. This way the crabs are identified and divided into: spiantani (the ones which in the space of a few days will become moleche), those called boni (the ones which in a few days that will become spiantani) and those called matti (literally “crazy”), that will not shed their shell again during the harvest season. Unfortunately, this Venetian specialty is in danger of disappearing due to pollution and the lack of generational change that could result in the loss of knowledge and experience. For this reason, as well as receiving national recognition as a “Traditional Agri-business Product”, a Slow Food Presidium has been established with the support of the Veneto Region.