Biological Invasions

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 587–595 | Cite as

Evidence for a permanent establishment of the snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) in the Barents Sea

  • J. Alvsvåg
  • A.-L. AgnaltEmail author
  • K. E. Jørstad
Original Paper


In the Atlantic the snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) is naturally distributed on the northwestern side, i.e. eastern Canada and west Greenland. Until recently, there have been no observations of snow crab in eastern Atlantic. However, in 1990s single and occasional reports were made of crabs captured in the eastern part of the Barents Sea, presumably introduced through ballast water. Special attention during the annual bottom-trawl surveys in the Barents Sea during February 2004–2006 were given to include recordings of snow crab to evaluate if the introduced species has succeeded to establish a self-sustaining population in this region. Recordings of snow crabs were systematically noted and biological measurements carried out. The results confirm previous Russian observations of snow crabs in the northern region of Gåsebanken. In addition, a significant number of crabs were also found in the central region of the Barents Sea, mainly in deeper waters from 180 to 350 m depth. The sizes ranged from 14 to 136 mm carapace width. All females above 70 mm were berried with fertilised eggs. A major fraction (31% in 2005; 76% in 2006) of the crabs consisted of juveniles below 50 mm CW, providing evidence for successful recruitment. The small-sized crabs were exclusively found in Gåsebanken, identifying the main recruiting area at present for snow crab in the Barents Sea. The results obtained show that the snow crab is now adapted to the northeast Atlantic.


Chionoecetes opilio Snow crab Barents Sea Size frequency Geographical distribution Recruitment area 



Support to prepare and present the data was provided by Dr. Åsmund Bjordal at Institute of Marine Research. We are indebted to Eva Farestveit for her technical assistance and otherwise enthusiastic support. We are grateful for the constructive comments provided by Dr. Bernard Sainte-Marie and Dr. Paul Clarke.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Marine ResearchNordnesNorway

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