Nofima has received permission from the Directorate of Fisheries to conduct fishing trials for snow crab in Isfjorden off the coast of Svalbard. The fishing trials will take place for approximately ten days between the end of May and the beginning of June 2023.

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Anne-May Johansen  

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“The aim of the fishing trials is to explore whether snow crab has established itself in the fjords of Svalbard.  We also want to identify whether the quantity is so large that it can be caught with the intention to use it for local value creation. Local, exclusive, Arctic food for residents and visitors”, says Nofima Senior Scientist Sten Siikavuopio. 

Together with his colleague, senior adviser Gustav Martinsen, Sten Siikavuopio will carry out the fishing trials. Commercial snow crab pots will be set systematically at different depths and habitats that are suitable for snow crab. 

Creating renewable resources

The community on Svalbard needs more new industries due to the stop in the mining industry.  Fishing trials for snow crab in Isfjorden off the coast of Svalbard will be carried out in connection with the project called ‘Fishery at 78° – Small scale fishery for local value creation on Svalbard’, which is funded by the Norwegian Research Council. 

“In ‘Fishery at 78°’, the goal is that the mining community, the research arena and the tourism destination of Svalbard also have the potential to become a culinary destination with locally captured red 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 the project manager for the Svalbard project. 

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

Specific needs

The permit granted by the Directorate of Fisheries states “The project has a specific need for a research quota to investigate the prevalence of snow crab in this area. Currently, there is no knowledge on the prevalence of snow crab in the fjord areas of Svalbard”.  

Through conducting fishing trials, Nofima aims to investigate whether snow crab has established itself as a so-called indigenous species in Svalbard, and the size and quality of it. 

“The snow crab is a particularly cold-loving species that inhabits 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 fishing trials will be carried out in close collaboration between Nofima and the project group on Svalbard. Also involved is Brita Knutsen Dahl, who runs Basecamp Explorer Spitsbergen AS. 

“The snow crab catch from the fishing trials will be landed at Isfjord Radio, who will use the resources to test different processing methods”, says Grete Lorentzen. 

The Nofima scientists state that catching food locally is significantly more sustainable than the import of food to Svalbard that currently takes place. 

“They are pretty much surrounded by huge amounts of food resources, but strict restrictions imply that nearly all food to Svalbard is transported at sea or by air freight. That is not sustainable. Locally caught, Arctic food served to visitors and residents of Svalbard is more sustainable and significantly more exclusive”, says Sten Siikavuopio. 

When the fishing trials have been completed, it will be possible to know the opportunities for coastal snow crab fishing in Svalbard, which, due to its exclusive, snow-white meat, is sought after by both chefs and culinary tourists. 

“If it has established itself in the fjords of Svalbard, it must be regarded and treated as an indigenous species, which is a great resource and should be utilised 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 Directorate of Fisheries states that “The allocated research quota is earmarked for the project that has been applied for, and the allocated quantity cannot be reallocated.  Research quotas can only be fished or caught in direct connection with the project applied for, and any remaining quota will lapse when the research trial has been completed”.

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