Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 639–657 | Cite as

A review of factors contributing to the decline of Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio)

  • Darrell R. J. MullowneyEmail author
  • Earl G. Dawe
  • Eugene B. Colbourne
  • George A. Rose


The Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) snow crab resource, presently the basis of the most important commercial fishery in the region, is in decline. Short-, mid-, and long-term recruitment prospects are deemed poor in most areas. Fishery declines have been most apparent in the north, beginning in the mid- to late 2000s, but are expected to begin in the more productive southern areas in the near future. A multitude of emergent theories to explain the resource decline have been hypothesized as contributing factors, including fishing, trawling impacts, seismic activities, disease, predation, and increasing temperature. This study comprehensively reviews and qualitatively relates the results of recent research and literature on each of these factors. We find that several factors may be contributing to a lack of recruitment in the stock, but diminishing productivity resulting from a warming oceanographic regime is the primary cause of the resource decline. Further, we postulate that trends occurring in the snow crab stock are indicative of a broader-scale ecological regime shift occurring along the NL shelf.


Snow crab Newfoundland and Labrador Regime shift Atlantic multidecadal oscillation 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Darrell R. J. Mullowney
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Earl G. Dawe
    • 1
  • Eugene B. Colbourne
    • 1
  • George A. Rose
    • 2
  1. 1.Science Branch, Department of Fisheries and Oceans CanadaNorthwest Atlantic Fisheries CentreSt. John’sCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems ResearchFisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada

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