The commercial fisheries in the Barents Sea Ecoregion target few stocks. The largest pelagic fishery targets capelin using midwater trawl. The largest demersal fisheries target cod, haddock, and other gadoids; predominantly using trawls, gillnets, longlines, and handlines. The crustacean fisheries target deep-sea prawn, red king crab, and snow crab. Most catches of crabs are from coastal areas. Harp seals and minke whales are also hunted in the region. Fisheries overview in the Barents Sea is available on https://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/FisheriesOverview_BarentsSea_2019.pdf
Catches of shellfish
Northern shrimp Pandalus borealis
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. 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 (
Geographical distribution of the stock in 2009–2019 was more easterly compared to previous years (Fig. 126.96.36.199). 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. 188.8.131.52) after 2018 total catch is rapidly grow mainly by Russian fishery.
Trawl surveys of northern shrimp stocks have been carried out in the Barents Sea since 1982. During the 2005–2019 period, the stock was relatively stable.
Red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)
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. 184.108.40.206); in 2016, total catch of red king crabs in Russian Economic Zone was 8.3 thousand tonnes.
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. In other parts of this area, the abundance of commercial sized males varied from 100 to 500 ind./km2 (Fig. 220.127.116.11). 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 migrations to find new food resources and climatic warming. 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 2018, the commercial stock index for red king crab was 94 thousand tonnes (Bakanev and Stesko, 2019). 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 5). 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 fishery for snow crab in the Barents Sea commenced in 2012. The harvest increased rapidly and in addition to the Norwegian fleet also EU boats and Russian fishermen participate in the fishery from 2013, which was unregulated and most of the fishery went on in international waters, the Loophole. 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 2.
During the 2013–2016 period of unregulated fishing in Loophole, 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. 220.127.116.11) 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 18.104.22.168. 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, 2019).
The snow crab fishery conducted by Norwegian vessels started in 2012 and 2.5 tones was landed. The next years, the number of boats and the catches increased. Since then the number of participating vessels has increased and the fishing area used was centered in the Barents Sea, including the Loophole and the Svalbard Fisheries Protection Zone (Figure 22.214.171.124).
Norway introduced a TAC for the first time in 2017 and it was set to 4000 tones and have been stable for 2018 and 2019. Even though the TAC has been on 4000 tones, the landings has been around 3000 tones the last two years (Table 3).
Fisheries overview in the Barents Sea, including discards is available on https://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/FisheriesOverview_BarentsSea_2019.pdf