Profile updated on 14 December 2021
Queen crab, snow crab
Chionoecetes opilio is a species of snow crab that is considered by some to be invasive in the Barents Sea region, having possibly been introduced there in the mid-1990's from the Bering Sea via ballast water (Lloyd’s Register 2020). Another opinion, based on Norwegian researchers' analyses of genetic data, holds that the species reached the Barents Sea through natural migration and habitat expansion along the northern Russian coastline (Institute of Marine Research 2018).
Ten years after the first recorded capture of a queen crab in the Barents Sea in 2003, commercial fishing began in earnest in 2013, targeting stocks that were rapidly increasing in size throughout the 2010s as they established themselves in their new habitats. The primary locations of snow crab aggregations in the vicinity of the Barents Sea Loophole and off the coast of Svalbard have represented challenges for determining the appropriate management entities for and who has fishing access to Barents Sea snow crab. Presently, under a shared legal understanding that Barents Sea queen crab are a "sedentary species" rather than a "fish species," Norway and Russia each claim unique fishing rights to Barents Sea queen crab in the portions of the Loophole area to which their contential shelves extend (if they were rather to consider queen crab a "fish species," it would be subject to multinational management through the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission). Russia's portion of the loophole area is considerably larger than Norway's, and the two countries have enacted separate management regimes for their fisheries in their respective areas of the Loophole (Kvalvik 2021). Meanwhile, off the coast of Svalbard, Norway claims unique fishing rights for queen crab, although this has faced legal challenges from EU states and fishers over differing interpretations of the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty (Schatz 2021).
The Svalbard and Loophole aggregations of queen crab are considered a single, continuous stock for assessment purposes by the Norwegian fishery management authorities (Institute of Marine Research 2021).