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Studying the profitability

Snow crab: This will be Norway's second-largest fishing industry in a few years, according to researchers. FOTO: Gunnar Sætra, IMR

Studying the profitability

When snow crabs come west of Hopen there will an equally cheap supply in Svalbard compared to the mainland, according to Lasse Rindahl, researcher at Sintef.

The research foundation has been hired to investigate all aspects of establishing a new fishing industry in the north. Svalbard is one of the cases studies, and researchers are trying to shed light on all sides of a seafood industry in Longyearbyen from profitability to species to fishing fleets.

Second-largest fishery

"We are trying to look at several cases and I think you need to think about more than one leg to stand on to extend the season as long as possible," said the Sintef researcher, who began work on the project last fall.

Fisheries and seafood is one of multiple industries that could stem the loss of coal mining jobs while ensuring a strong Norwegian settlement and level of activity as Store Norske downsizes.

Rindahl said there are several concurrent events that make a seafood industry realistic in Svalbard, particularly the lure of snow crabs.

"It will be Norway's second-largest fishing industry in a few years," he said. "This is a fishery the size of herring and mackerel, and some think certainly that the establishing it in the heartland of where they are might be wise."

"There are many who are talk about the possibility of freezing warehouse there, and delivering frozen products and having services there," Rindahl added. "One of the questions is whether Longyearbyen can meet the requirements for a fishing boat every time it goes out."

Unresolved questions

Norway approved amendments to the Marine Resources Act in January to facilitate fish processing activity in Svalbard. Norway is still dependent on a lot of cooperation with Russia when it comes to snow crabs. In addition, unresolved questions remain about fishing gear which is not used today in Svalbard, and access to power and water.

For snow crabs, Rindahl said the next few years could make the situation very interesting.

"When the crabs comes west of Hopen is the break-even point," he said. "Then you do not have to go out of the Svalbard zone, which may make it easier."

"The Svalbard zone is predicted to be an extensive area and if that's true it may be a bit difficult to operate a coastal fishing with small boats based in Finnmark since this is a cold-loving species," Rindahl said.

Translated by Mark Sabbatini


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