Recent Trends in Distribution and Abundance of the Snow Crab (Chionoecetes opilio) Population in the Barents Sea

Recent Trends in Distribution and Abundance of the Snow Crab (Chionoecetes opilio) Population in the Barents Sea

A.- L. Agnalt, K.E. Jørstad, V.A. Pavlov, and E. Olsen

Recent Trends in Distribution and Abundance of the Snow Crab (Chionoecetes opilio) Population in the Barents SeaThis is part of Biology and Management of Exploited Crab Populations under Climate Change
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Description

The snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) is distributed in the Bering Sea (North Pacific) and the northwestern Atlantic, including Canada and West Greenland. A few specimens were first recorded in the northeast Atlantic in 1996. Since 2004 snow crabs have been recorded routinely during annual bottom-trawl surveys (winter and autumn) in the Barents Sea. These investigations confirmed previous fishery observations of snow crabs in the northern region of Goose Bank, but also detected snow crabs over a much broader geographic area. The crabs were found at depths of 40-380 m, with a majority between 100 and 300 m. In 2008, a total of 664 snow crabs were captured during the autumn survey, suggesting that the abundance is increasing. In total, about 40% of the snow crabs consisted of juveniles under 50 mm carapace width (CW), providing evidence for successful recruitment. These small-sized crabs were exclusively found in eastern Barents Sea, indicating this to be the main nursery area. Egg-bearing females have been found since 2004. The smallest female with extruded eggs measured 65 mm CW; all females >80 mm CW were ovigerous. Collectively, these data demonstrate the successful establishment of a snow crab population in the Barents Sea. Comparative genetic studies are needed to identify the source population of this species introduction, and extensive sampling of size, sex, maturity status, distribution, and abundance are necessary to monitor the potential growth of this new snow crab population.

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