The research ship Helmer Hanssen went out this week for an expedition at Smutthullet in the Barents Sea to experiment with a new sampling system. The new system consists of a bag fixed to the chassis of the trawl that's designed to better capture bottomfeeders.
"We have had a lack of data about the prevalence of snow crab and we are thinking more about developing a new tool that makes it possible to get samples," said Jan H. Sundet, an oceanographer and crab researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR).
Scientists, including Sundet, have predicted it is only a matter of time before the snow crab is well established around Svalbard and Franz Josef Land (see graphic). That is one of the reasons it is important to get a more precise estimate of the pace.
"I predict that it will come to virtually all areas around Svalbard," Sundet said. "But how much and when it is there we do not know. But it has gone fast with that crab, at least twice as fast as with king crab."
Snow crab is expected to become an important resource for Norwegian fishermen, but most of Smutthullet is under Russian jurisdiction. As a result, Norwegian vessels have been coming out of Smutthullet and starting to fish closer to Svalbard.
Scientists hope to obtain the new equipment by the next ecosystem survey, which takes place in the autumn, and said they believe it will then be possible to say more about the occurrence and quantities of snow crab.
Translated by Mark Sabbatini