Billions of snow crabs have gone around Alaska – are they in Russian waters?

However, overfishing is not the reason for the massive decline in snow crabs. The head of the US Department of Fisheries Research Laboratories Kodiak says that human-caused climate change contributes significantly to the disappearance of wildlife.

Living in very cold waters

Snow crabs live in very cold waters and are mainly found in seas where the water temperature does not exceed two degrees Celsius. An alarming warming of the oceans has been observed in recent years, not least around Alaska.

Biologists suspect that large numbers of animals have died. The American scientist Miranda Westphal explains in the “New York Times” that the metabolism of snow crabs increases when the water around them warms: “They need more fuel, therefore more food. Since there was not enough, probably they are hungry. ” A disease may also have played a role, but she clarifies: “We don’t know exactly, and we’ll never know, because the crabs are gone.”

Is the answer in Russia?

A theory that is also based on the climate crisis has to do with Russia: Since 2005, researchers have been observing how populations of spider crabs are migrating to colder waters due to the warming of the Bering Sea. These would have been found further west in the Russian areas. In a 2005 New York Times article, the president of a US seafood trade association warned: “If snow crabs move to Russian fishing grounds, there’s nothing you can do but hope. that they come back sooner or later “. It is not known whether the animals currently dispersed billions of times have actually settled in Russian waters.

Despite the climate crisis and the warming of the seas, the disappearance of the crabs is surprising for Alaska. Each year, fishing vessels conduct surveys to estimate stocks of fish and crab species. In 2018 and 2019 the numbers were very good and “promising”. No polls were conducted in 2020, the reason was the corona pandemic. The shock came in 2021: the industry observed “the biggest collapse we’ve ever seen in snow crabs,” says biologist Westphal.

The cancellation of the fishing season is bitter for Alaska fishing – fishing companies have to expect huge losses. But the authorities see no alternative to forced rupture: existing stocks need to be protected and increased again.

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