Nofima snow crab Svalbard

Nofima will conduct experimental fishing for snow crab in Svalbard

Norwegian research institute, Nofima has received the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries’ permission for experimental fishing for snow crab in Isfjorden near Svalbard. 

The fishing will take place for approximately ten days at the turn of May-June 2023.

“The aim of the trial fishing is to find out whether the snow crab has established itself in the fjords on Svalbard. We also want to survey whether the quantity is so large that it can be captured with the intention of using it for local value creation. Local food. Local, exclusive, Arctic food for permanent residents and visitors,” says senior researcher Sten Siikavuopio at Nofima.

It is he who, together with his colleague, senior adviser Gustav Martinsen, will carry out the research fishing. Fishing must take place in such a way that commercial snow crab baits are systematically placed at different depths and habitats suitable for snow crab.

Create renewable resources

Svalbard society needs several new economic legs to stand on when the era of mining is finished. The fisheries research for snow crab in Isfjorden on Svalbard is carried out in connection with the project “Fishing at 78° – Small-scale fisheries for local value creation in Svalbard“, which is financed by the Research Council of Norway.

“In “Fishing at 78°”, the aim is that the mining community, research arena and tourism destination Svalbard also has the potential to become a culinary destination with short-travelled and processed king and snow crab on the menu. The core of the project is to be able to create renewable values,” says Grete Lorentzen, who is project manager for the Svalbard project.

“We are talking about a knowledge project, where we create and transfer knowledge about how the Svalbard community can make use of an exclusive resource through correct capture, live storage, processing and preparation,” adds Sten Siikavuopio.

Special needs

“The project has a special need for a research quota to investigate the occurrence of snow crab in this area. Today, there is no knowledge related to the question of whether the snow crab has established a catchable population in the fjord areas of Svalbard”, says the permit from the Directorate of Fisheries.

Nofima therefore wants to use test fishing to investigate whether snow crab has established itself as a so-called indigenous species in Svalbard, and what the composition of the population looks like in terms of size and quality.

“The snow crab is a particularly cold-loving species, which lives in northern waters. The fjords around Svalbard seem to be pure heaven for this species. The temperature is right, and the food supply is plentiful,” says Siikavuopio.

The test fishing will be carried out in close collaboration between Nofima and the project group in Svalbard. There is also Brita Knutsen Dahl, who runs Basecamp Explorer Spitsbergen AS.

“The snow crab catch from the trial fishery will be landed at Brita, which will use the resources to test out different processing methods”, says Grete Lorentzen.

The Nofima researchers state that catching food locally is significantly more sustainable than the importation of food into Svalbard that takes place today.

“They almost live in a cooking pot, but strict restrictions mean that almost all food to Svalbard today has to be imported via boat or air freight. It is not sustainable. Locally caught, Arctic food served to visitors and permanent residents of Svalbard is both more sustainable and significantly more exclusive,” says Sten Siikavuopio.

Only when the trial fishing has ended will it be possible to say whether there may be opportunities for coastal fishing for snow crab on Svalbard, which, due to its exclusive, snow-white meat, is sought after by chefs and food lovers alike.

“If it is established in the fjords on Svalbard, it must be considered and treated as an indigenous species, which is a great resource and should be able to be utilized as such,” says Siikavuopio.

The catch is earmarked for the project

For the time being, there is no question of any commercial fishing for snow crab on Svalbard:

“The allocated research quota is earmarked for the project applied for and the allocated amount cannot be reallocated. Research quota can only be fished or caught in direct connection with the project applied for, and any remaining quota falls away when the research trip has ended,” says the commitment from the Directorate of Fisheries.

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