Snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio)

  Introduced species
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After the first snow crab had been found on the Goose Bank in 1996 the number of reports on the snow crab by-catches in bottom trawl fishery has gradually increased (Pavlov, 2002). Since 2003 the snow crab has been observed in stomachs of cod, haddock, catfishes and thorny skate and thereby became a new food item for bottom fishes in the Barents Sea. In 2005, a snow crab was, for the first time, found during the ecosystem survey.

In 2005-2008, the number of trawl stations where this species occurred and the number of individuals per station, increased. During that period, the crab was found in bottom trawl catches in most of the eastern Barents Sea concentrated mainly in the areas adjacent to the Goose Bank and the southern extremity of the Novaya Zemlya.

In 2007-2008, directed trawl surveys for the snow crab was conducted for the first time. At the Goose Bank and adjacent areas in the eastern Barents Sea were surveyed. During the surveys, highest number of snow crabs was 95 specimens per haul/hour. Males predominated (84%) in the catches and the greatest density of crabs (145-320 ind./km2) was registered to the south of the Goose Bank.

The results indicate that the snow crab has adapted to the Barents Sea and it is assumed that the abundance of this crab will grow in the eastern Barents Sea in the nearest future. Due to this, it is expedient to monitor the distribution and abundance of the crab regularly, and to estimate any impact on the native ecosystem.