Deepwater crab research promoted
18 October 2010
A special permit has been granted by the Ministry of Fisheries to enable research and exploratory fishing for deepwater king crabs and red crabs.
Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley says the permit will allow Crabco Ltd, an umbrella company that represents most of those who own deepwater crab quota, to undertake a research programme that will provide information to establish a total allowable catch for king crab and red crab in future.
"King crab and red crab were both introduced into the Quota Management System six years ago – but with relatively modest catch limits due to the lack of available information," says Mr Heatley.
"However, since then there hasn’t been any significant commercial fishing of these species."
Deepwater crabs are taken using special pots. They are a ‘target’ fishery, which results in very little or no by-catch.
"The permit is for three years and seven months. It will allow a scientific research programme to be carried out and will also allow larger catches of these crabs so we can work out whether they can be caught commercially," says Mr Heatley.
"Overseas experience suggests the increased catches approved for the limited duration of the permit will not result in any sustainability concerns, while giving us the information we need to determine a biologically sustainable catch limit for the future," he said.
Both species could be marketed as 'high value' products to Europe, Asia and the US because catching them in pots rather than trawling would allow them to be exported alive.
King crab, Neolithodes brodiei and Lithodes murrayi, are found around the coast of the South Island and are known to grow to 1.2 metres in length. Recent research by NIWA, which prepared the Deepwater Crab Research Programme on behalf of Crabco, has identified 14 varieties of king crab in New Zealand waters.
Red crab, Chaceon bicolor, are found on the east coast of the North Island. They are actually purple and tan in colour and are slightly smaller than king crab.