Norwegian and Russian vessels harvest northern shrimp over the stock’s entire area of distribution in the Barents Sea. Vessels from other nations are restricted to trawling shrimp only in the Svalbard zone and the Loophole — a piece of international waters surrounded by the EEZs of Norway and Russia.
Northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis)
No overall TAC has been set for northern shrimp, and the fishery is regulated through effort control, licensing, and a partial TAC in the Russian zone only. The regulated minimum mesh size is 35 mm. Bycatch is constrained by mandatory sorting grids, and by temporary closures in areas with high bycatch of juvenile cod, haddock, Greenland halibut, redfish, and shrimp (<15 mm carapace length or <6 cm total length). Catches have varied between 19 000 and 128 000 tonnes per year since 1977. Since the mid-1990s, a major restructuring of the fleet toward fewer and larger vessels has taken place. Since 1995, average engine size of a shrimp vessel in ICES Divisions 1 and 2 increased from 1000 HP (horse power) to more than 6000 HP in the early 2010s, and the number of fishing vessels has declined markedly. Overall catch decreased from approximately 83 000 tonnes since 2000, reflecting reduced economic profitability in the fishery. After a low of about 20 000 tonnes in 2013, catches again began to increase and reached about 34 000 tonnes in 2015, but decreased to 30 000 tonnes in 2016 and 2017 before increasing considerably to about 55 000 t in 2018. The 2018 stock assessment indicated that the stock has been fished sustainably, and has remained well above precautionary reference limits throughout the history of the fishery. Accordingly, ICES used the MSY-approach to advice a 2019 TAC of 70 000 metric tonnes (ICES 2018x).
Geographical distribution of the stock in 2009–2015 was more easterly compared to previous years (fig. 188.8.131.52). As results, catch levels from some of the more traditional western fishing grounds have declined. Recent reports indicate lower catch rates than would be expected given the overall good stock condition. This may be related to operation costs for a relatively small fleet to move away from more traditional fishing grounds, and to find new grounds with commercially viable shrimp concentrations.
Fisheries for northern shrimp in the Barents Sea and waters adjacent to Spitsbergen Archipelago have been carried out since the 1950s. The largest catches were recorded in the mid-1980s (more than 120 000 tonnes) and during 1990–1991, 2000 (approximately 80 000 tonnes). Since 2005, total annual catch of northern shrimp in this area have remained at the 20 000- 40 000 thousand tonnes level (Fig. 184.108.40.206) until 2017.
Trawl surveys of northern shrimp stocks have been carried out in the Barents Sea since 1982. During the 2005–2016 period, the stock was relatively stable (fig. 220.127.116.11).
In 2017, estimated total biomass (method of squares) of northern shrimp was 314.2 thousand tonnes; 1.5% higher than in 2016, and 8% lower than the long-term average.
Red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)
Red king crab is managed separately in the NEZ and REZ.
The commercial fishery for red king crab in the Russian Economic Zone of the Barents Sea has been carried out since 2004. Russian Fisheries Regulations stipulate that males with carapace width greater than or equal to 150 mm can only be caught using traps.
Heavy exploitation of the stock during 2005–2006 led to a decrease in the commercial component of the red king crab population, and reduced productivity in the fishery. In 2011, decreased fishery pressure prompted population growth, and subsequent stabilization of the commercial stock. Total catch also increased in subsequent years (fig. 18.104.22.168); in 2016, total catch of red king crabs in Russian Economic Zone was 8.3 thousand tonnes (Table 22.214.171.124).
One of the most detailed trap surveys to assess distribution of the red king crab commercial stock was conducted in 2013. Results from this survey indicated the densest concentrations of commercial sized male crabs (more than 1000 ind./km²) was recorded on Rybachya Bank and Kildinskaya Bank, in the eastern part of Murmansk Rise, and in the southern part of North Kanin Bank (fig. 126.96.36.199). In other parts of this area, the abundance of commercial sized males varied from 100 to 500 ind./km2 (fig. 188.8.131.52). Subsequently, aggregations of fishable crabs shifted eastward to the western part of the Kanin-Kolguev Shallow. The most eastern extent of red king crab distribution was recorded in 2015 and 2017. Two adult individuals (male and female with clutch) in eastern Pechora Sea near Vaygach Island, and the southwestern coast of Novaya Zemlya Archipelago. This change in distribution could be caused by both migration to find new food resources and climatic warming.
Figure 184.108.40.206. Distribution of the commercial stock of the red king crab (commercial males, ind./km2) in autumn 2013 in Russian Economic Zone of the Barents Sea according to assessment trap’s survey (Bakanev and Stesko, 2017).
In 2016, ten Russian vessels fished red king crabs in the eastern Barents Sea, the Murmansk Rise, and Kanin Bank using rectangular and trapezoidal traps. The largest catches were obtained at southeastern Murmansk Rise outside the 12-mile coastal zone. In 2016, the commercial stock index for red king crab was 82.5 thousand tonnes (Table 220.127.116.11, Bakanev and Stesko, 2017).
The Norwegian fishery for the red king crab (RKC) is subjected to two different management regimes; a vessel quota fishery in the quota regulated area (QRA) and a free fishery with a discard ban in the free fishing area (FFA) (See Sundet & Hoel 2016, for detailed information).
The Norwegian fishery for the RKC have taken place since 1994, but the commercial fishery started in 2002. In 2008 there was a dramatic change in the management of this fishery with the introduction of an annual vessel quota in tons, minimum legal-size restrictions fishery for both male and female crabs on 130 mm carapace length and trap limits of 30 traps among other things. Since then, the annual total quotas (TAC) has varied between 900 and 2000 tons (table 18.104.22.168). Number of participating vessels have increased since then and were close to 600 in 2018 (figure 3.9.26). This fishery is strictly monitored and the landings each year were always identical to or close the annual TAC (Table 22.214.171.124).
The fishery in the FFA has varied much between years and has mainly taken place in western Finnmark, close to the western border of the QRA (figure 126.96.36.199).
Figure 188.8.131.52. Landings of male red king crabs in Norwegian quota regulated area divided on different areas during 1994 – 2018. Number of participating vessels are shown in red numbers on top of columns each year.
Snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio)
The snow crab fishery carried out by Norwegian, Spanish, and Russian vessels began in international waters of the Barents Sea (Loop Hole) in 2013. Russian vessels fished crabs in this area until 2016. In 2016, Russian vessels started fishing snow crabs in Russian waters (fig. 184.108.40.206). In 2017, the Russian fishery for snow crabs was conducted only within the Russian EEZ.
Russian vessels mainly use conical traps for the snow crab fishery. Statistics for the Russian snow crab fishery in the Barents Sea during 2013–2016 are shown in Table 220.127.116.11.
During the 2013–2016 period of unregulated fishing in Loop Hole, the total international catch of snow crabs exceeded 55 thousand tonnes. During 2015–2016, average daily catch declined by 10–20% from the 2014 estimate. (Bakanev and Pavlov, 2017).
Decreased fishery productivity (fig. 18.104.22.168) indicated significant overfishing of the Barents Sea snow crab stock.
In July 2015, Norway and Russia agreed upon the designation of the snow crab as a sedentary species. This decision changed the status from a water column species to a continental shelf resource (Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission, 2015). The snow crab stock in the Loophole area then shifted from being in international waters to become Russian and Norwegian property on their continental shelves. So 85% belongs to the Russian continental shelf and the last rest of 15% belongs to the Norwegian continental shelf
Figure 22.214.171.124. Biomass of commercial stock of snow crab in the Barents Sea in 2005-2017 and its forecast for 2018; catch of snow crab in the Barents Sea in 2014-2017 and expected catch in 2018 (Bakanev and Pavlov, 2018).
The fishery for snow crab conducted by Norwegian vessels, started in 2012 and 2.5 tones was landed. Norwegian vessels fished in the Loophole in the beginning until 2016, but then they moved into Norwegian economic zone and the fishery protection zone around Svalbard. Norway introduced a TAC for the first time in 2017. It was set at 4000 tonnes, and have been stable for 2018 and 2019. Even though the TAC has been on 4000 tonnes, the landings has been around 3000 tonnes the last two years.