Catches in abandoned snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) pots in the Barents Sea
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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During a 2018 retrieval cruise for abandoned snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) pots in the Barents Sea, approximately 8600 pots abandoned 1.5 years earlier were recovered. Forty-three percent of a subsample of 1000 pots contained snow crabs, with an average of three crabs per pot. Most of the crabs were alive (~98%) and dominated by large males. Pinch injuries and limb loss were common and tended to decline with increasing crab size. Reflex testing showed that the crabs were vital (i.e. the crabs moved their legs, chelipeds and maxillipeds when stimulated), which was supported by a relatively high meat content. However, energy reserves in the digestive glands (hepatopancreas reserves) were low, indicating overall energy deficiencies. Our results indicate considerable unaccounted mortality due to self-baiting, continued catch and cannibalism. The findings demonstrate that snow crab pots which are lost or abandoned in the Barents Sea fishery maintain huge potential for ghost-fishing impacts.