Outlook for Russia's autumn crab season in the Barents Sea

September 3, 2008 16:35

Closed period for red king crab fishery (due to the stock's reproduction and moulting) in the Russian waters of the Barents Sea in 2008 has come to an end and the autumn-winter fishery of Paralithodes camtschaticus was opened from 1 September 2008, fishery sources in Murmansk told www.fishnet-russia.com (www.fishnet.ru).

According to PINRO polar fishery research institute, all the bycatch of young crabs with the carapace of less than 15cm and female crabs should be returned into natural environment with the smallest possible damage. Towards that end the fishing vessels should have special trays onboard. The total bycatch of juvenile and female crabs is allowed at up to 25% in number of crabs from each particular catch.

Quotas for commercial red king crab fishery in the Russian EEZ as broken to fishing areas in 2008

Fishing area

Quotas, metric tons

Share of the area, %

Barents Sea (Northeast Atlantic)



North Okhotsk subarea (Northwest Pacific)



Petropavlovsk-Komandor subarea (Northwest Pacific)



North Kurile zone (Northwest Pacific)



South Kurile (Northwest Pacific)



Kamchatka Kurile subarea (Northwest Pacific)



West Kamchatka subarea (Northwest Pacific)



East Sakhalin subarea (Northwest Pacific)



Primorye subarea (Northwest Pacific)



West Sakhalin subarea (Northwest Pacific)






In the Russian Far East Basin the abundance of the red king crab resources dwindled so dramatically that the commercial fishery in main areas had to be closed. The basin's red king crab TAC for the current year 2008 has been set at 3,462 metric tons, and nearly all the TAC will be exhausted for the stock surveys. The main reason behind the ban of the commercial fishery was continuous overexploitation resulting from poaching.


Starting from 2005 Murmansk has emerged as one of the world's crab fishing centres. Before the start of the autumn season 2008 PINRO made the necessary research into the abundance of the stocks. In July 2008 NIS M-0520 Professor Boiko research vessel conducted a red king crab survey with divers and traps in the inshore waters along Murman. As per early September 2008, another research vessel M-0144 Mirgorod was finishing trawl surveys of red king crab. In order to get more complete information about distribution of red king crab in the Russian waters some more vessels were also attracted. According to head of PINRO's laboratory of fishing invertebrates Boris Berenboim, preliminary estimates show that crabbers should hope for active fishery until the end of the year as the conditions for such progressing of the fishery are regarded as favourable. The bulk of crabs prefer staying in the Russian waters. Recruitment of the fishing stock is reported as good, and that will evidently exceed the fishery results for the same period last year. The main fishery area will be located to the northeast of the Svyatoi Nos Cape from 35 to 80 miles away from the shore. The most efficient depths will be 100-130 meters. Meat content in crab legs approaches 80%. Results of autumn operations will depend mostly on crews' experience and captains' correct choice of trap position.

Red king crab is the most valuable crab species out of all Crustacea. Fine taste and attractive exterior of its white color meat, covered with thin red and pink skin are only some of its values. Red king crab is a source of dietetic and delicatessen meat. It is a very healthy product thanks to rich content of protein and mineral elements versus low fat content. Crab meat contains a lot of iodine, nearly 100-fold more than in beef, and vitamin E. Crab products positively influence blood coagulability and reduces the risk of clot formation, they are also helpful in cases of anaemia.

Before the start of the commercial season a couple of boats conducted control fishery catching about 230 tonnes of the valuable product. During that period, in August 2008, on the local market Murmansk traders offered crab products at the following prices:

Crab products

Price in RUB per kilo

First phalange


Second phalange









In 2005 the Norwegian authorities unilaterally (without reaching agreement with Russia) set the western border of the Fishery Regulations at the 26th degree East. In the waters to the west of the North Cape the announced fishery was aimed at complete destruction of the crab population to prevent upsetting multi-species equilibrium. More specifically, the Norwegians prohibited release of live crabs back to the sea, and those invertebrates, which are not fit for market, should be destroyed. The protocol of the 36th session of Mixed Russian-Norwegian Fisheries Commission also confirmed that the sides should exercise separate management of the red king crab stock in the nations' economic zones. The Norwegian authorities used the opportunity to apply one of the UNO conventions in respect of limiting spread of introduced crabs in order to gain extra profit from marine operations.

Red king crab is an important resource for Finmark's fishermen. During the last few years the Norwegian quota in the Norwegian EEZ was set at 300,000 crabs. In 2008 the quota has been increased by 263%. According to the decision of the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate dated 27 August 2008, the red king crab fishery in the Norwegian EEZ is allowed from 8 September 2008 to 31 March 2009. To the east of the 26th degree East during the season of 2008/2009 the fishermen can harvest 1925 tonnes of male crabs (789,000 crabs), 235 tonnes of females (110,000 crabs) plus 240 tonnes of damaged species. The Norwegians say that such increase of the quota can be attributed to good recruitment of the fishing stock. The fishery of female crabs has been allowed for the first time, and such strategy has been reflected in the government's report to Stortinget on red king crab management.

The above news is good for most of the Norwegian fishermen. With large capture quotas the fishery of red king crab will be more active. Crab will remain one of the most targeted species in the quiet period of the year in terms of fishery activity. Red king crab will also become one of the most popular species for recreational fishery beyond the 12-mile zone to the west of the North Cape. The quota increase will result into positive economic consequences for the fishermen who will get the licenses. Female crabs which can be harvested under the new regulation are a completely new product, and so far it is not yet clear how the product will be sold on the market.

Today, along the coast of the East Finmark there are up to 15 factories receiving live red king crab for processing. Depending on the geographic location, the importance of red king crabs for their economy differs very much. In Botsfjord the contribution of red king crab amounts to ca.8% of the total value of products landed by the fishing vessels. For the factory based in Bugeness crab plays a very important role accounting for 82% of its material purchases.

The Norwegian government holds the exclusive right of allowing foreign vessels purchasing crabs and having onboard processing equipment to stay at the Norwegian shores. Now onshore factories of Finmark are asking the nation's government to take measures in order to push competing foreign vessels out from the Norwegian shores. In particular, the Norwegian factories are concerned about frequent calls of Seattle-based vessel Blue Dutch.

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