Varanger king crab (paralithodes camtschaticus) is the biggest crab species in the world. The largest crab ever caught in Varanger weighed approximately 15 kg and measured almost 2 meters from tip to tip. King crab sub species are also found in the Northern Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea and just outside the Californian coast. In Russia the king crab is called "Kamtchatka crab" and in english the crab sub species which lives in Varanger is called "the red king crab".
Varanger king crab grows much bigger than it's cousins in the other sea areas. The average weigh of the king crab caught in Alaska is 2-3 kg. The mean weigh of the Varanger king crab in commercial fishing lies around 4-5 kg.
King crab fishing season in Norway stretches from the beginning of october to the end of december. Polar Spectacle, a king crab festival with many cultural and musical events and of course good food, opens the king crab season is every year in the middle of october.
Lobster and king crab are the most valued and the most expensive sea food products Norway produces to the world market. Varanger king crab with is's enormous crab meat filets is one of the main ingredients in Bocuse d'Or 2007, the World championship of the chefs in France.
A gourmet dinner with fresh Varanger king crab on the menu is an uforgettable gourmet experience which you never will forget.
The Alaskan King Crab
Why is the Alaskan King Crab one of the most sought-after types of crab for eating? King crab meat is snow white in color with a slight red membrane that helps to lock-in moisture. In the glory days of Alaskan king crab fishing, 15 pound and greater red and blue king crabs were caught in the Kodiak and Pribilof island areas. However, due to significantly lower stocks since the early 80s, these fisheries have been closed in an attempt generate new stocks.
The Red Alaskan King Crab is the most sought after for commercial purposes but the Blue and Golden Alaskan King Crabs are also popular. There is a fourth type of Alaskan King Crab called the Scarlet King Crab that is not as well-known as the other three nor is it fished for commercially. The reason for this is because they are smaller and harder to find.
Young king crabs tend to live in depths of 150 or below. From 2-4 years of age, Alaskan king crabs begin to form pods of thousands of crabs. Around year four (size of 2.5 in), crabs move to deeper waters during spring migration to join adults in shallower water to spawn. After spawning ends, these crabs settle in waters between 90 and 200 feet for the remainder of the year. In particular, red king crabs like the softness of sand which is typically found in shallower waters. The Red and the Blue Alaskan King Crabs prefer smaller depths while the Golden Alaskan King Crab will settle in water at least three hundred feet deep.
Adult king crabs
Adult females must molt in order to spawn. After molting and fertilization, female king crabs will lay between 45,000 and 500,000 eggs below her abdomen. The gestation period is 11 months and eggs are typically hatched in the spring. King crab spends two to three months in larval stages. They will molt approximately five times before becoming the appearance of a true king crab. Some Alaskan king crabs have been known to migrate over 100 miles during to spawn
Russian King Crabs
In the late 50’s, Russian scientists began a series of projects to introduce king crab into the Barents sea. This successful initiative has now led to a giant influx of Russian king crab being imported into the US market. Populations of King crab in the Barents sea have risen 10 times in the past ten years, estimated at 20 million crabs.
In 2006, approximately 90% of king crab in the world was Russian king crab which accounted to more than 56 million pounds. And, because of this supply, prices for king crab have been driven down. Lower prices have led to increased consumer demand, causing a surge in Russian imports. What’s most troubling for the Alaskan king crab industry is the fact that the majority of Russian crab is imported illegally and marketed as Alaskan king crab due to its brand equity.
Now, Norwegian scientists are fearful that these Russian king crabs have migrated into Norwegian waters and will negatively impact cod and crab species.
Kingsized danger -- Alaskan Crab Fishing
The brief Alaskan crab season lasts as little as a few days or weeks during the fall and winter. Crab fishing takes place in remote areas of the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, sandwiched between Alaska and Russia. Docked in Dutch Harbor, the largest fishing port in the United States, around 200 crab fishing boats set out, as eager as racehorses bursting out of the gates.
Crab fishing involves dropping 800-pound steel cages, called crab pots, into select areas of the Bering Sea where specific crab species, such as king crab, live. Fishermen cover the traps with herring meat as bait, and the crabs climb up a ramp to get the food, then fall into the bottom of the pot where they can't escape. Fishermen leave these pots in the water for a day or two to allow them to fill up, then haul in their load.
Crab pots and crab pot launchers are common sources of injuries. Fishermen get caught up in the coil lines. Working at the edge of the boat also puts them at risk of being swept off the deck and falling overboard.
A wintertime Bering Sea injects a heavy dose of danger into the job. While salmon fishing season, for example, falls between June and September, crab fishing takes place in spurts between October and January. The icy waters threaten hypothermia and storms grow more frequent during that time of year. The brief season zips by so quickly, the haste of the catch can also contribute to a high fatality rate. And if you get hurt on the boat, no one can drive you to a hospital. To add to the mental strain of an 18- to 20-hour shift, Alaskan winter days may be dark except for a few hours.
With the environmental odds stacked against them, what keeps people coming back to crab fishing, season after season? Many sail the blue waters in search of the green. Business Week magazine named crab fishing the "Worst Job with the Best Pay," with fishermen cashing out as much as $50,000 for a few days work catching king crab and even more for snow crab [source: Miller].
True, when the tide rolls in your favor, crab fishing pays well in return for a hellish week or so, but Alaska officials warn about the unpredictability of crab fishing since it all depends on the size of the harvest. Generally, crew members make 1.5 to 10 percent of the ship's profit. In 2006, 505 commercial Alaskan fishermen pulled in more than $127 million gross worth of crab [source: Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission]. That averages out to more than $250,000 per person, but keep in mind that the payout isn't evenly distributed to all fishermen, since boat owners and captains often claim up to half of a ship's earnings.
While many crab fishermen make a huge chunk of change, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median income for commercial fishermen of only $27,250 per year. Evidently, the pay-off of such risky work may be low for some of the industry's estimated 36,000 employees.