A histological study of the reproductive cycle of male and female shore crabs, Carcinus maenas (Linnaeus), was performed monthly on the South West coast of Ireland (from December 2006 to July 2008). The calculated sex ratio deviated from equality, 1:0.53, revealing a strong male bias. A system was devised, based on screening of tissue sections, to describe and stage gametogenic development. Histological examinations revealed that ovarian development occurred biannually, with a primary winter cycle in which the larger crabs reproduced and a secondary summer cycle, when smaller crabs reproduced. An association was observed where more of the larger specimens were caught in the summer months and the smaller specimens in the winter months, which inversely correlated with the segregated breeding cycles. There was strong evidence that mature male crabs could potentially copulate year round since all mature specimens, collected throughout the year, contained viable spermatozoa. Developmental stages of oogenesis and spermatogenesis were described to develop a practical gonadal index for this portunid crab, providing information on the biology of this species, which will be of benefit for fisheries management.