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Millions of King Crabs Turn Sea to Desert 175

Reporter writes "Russian biologist, Yuri Illarionovich Orlov, succeeded where Stalin failed by implanting the red king crabs into the Barents Sea. Except now, 40 years later, he's getting worried. Why? The giant crabs are clawing their way along the bottom of the Barents Sea are spreading like wildfire along the northern coasts of Russia and Norway and will continue to spread as far as Gibraltar, the southern tip of the European continent. How come? One female crab can lay 500,000 eggs at a time, of which one or two percent will become crabs. The kicker is that the species is protected by diplomatic accords between Norway and Russia, so fishing quotas are in place. From the article: "The Kamchatka crab, also known as the Alaskan or red king crab, was introduced into the Barents by the Soviets in the 1960s — some 30 years after a first, failed attempt by Stalin — in a bid to bolster Russia's food supplies. ... The crabs weigh up to 12 kilograms (26 pounds) and measure up to two meters (6.5 feet) from pincher to pincher. While they remain far from Europe's tourist beaches for the time being, their impact on the environment is already a major cause for concern in the Arctic"."
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Millions of King Crabs Turn Sea to Desert

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 13, 2006 @03:37AM (#15711090)
    And it involves lot of butter ...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 13, 2006 @03:37AM (#15711091)
    I know that it is controversial with some dieticians, but I have had great success in keeping off the weight with the low-crab diet.
  • Lower the quotas (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ekhymosis ( 949557 )
    Lower the quotas, bring in a Red Lobster chain in Russia and Norway and problem solved. I hope.
  • Russia has a raging case of crabs!
  • by winmine ( 934311 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @03:40AM (#15711099)
    They should take a cue from Ancient Japan and flip them over and attack its weak point for MASSIVE DAMAGE. [youtube.com]
  • Lord of war (Score:5, Funny)

    by mfaras ( 979322 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @03:41AM (#15711103) Homepage
    I guess the guy was selling them weapons to kill all the sealife!

    Yuri Orlov is the guy from Lord Of War [imdb.com]

    -- Sig: What sig? Oh, you mean this one? Nah...
  • by Hrshgn ( 595514 ) <rince2001@gmDALIx.ch minus painter> on Thursday July 13, 2006 @03:55AM (#15711129)
    Research already showed that those guys are quite temperature-sensitive. It is rather unlikely that they will be able to leave the artic water and reach as far as Gibraltar.
    • They wouldn't even manage to get past Danmark or Germany. As far as I know they also need fairly clean water...
      • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @05:52AM (#15711366) Homepage
        It will be the same old story as the Black Sea and the Rapana sea snail in the 1970-es. Or the Elodea water weed and the european riverways in the late 19th century. These were thought to be the doom of all sea and water life respectively. It did not happen.

        Initially introduced species thrive and go through a growth explosion. After some time their growth drops and they stabilise at some level or even die out to a near extinction. There are multiple reasons for this. First of all nearly all introductions are done with a limited gene pool. If fresh blood is not introduced, problems from inbreeding will quickly erode the invaders advantage. For example the Rapana when introduced in the early 1970s in the Black Sea seamed invinsible. By mid 1990 it nearly disappeared.

        Even if the invader "vitality" is not lowered by inbreeding, the ecosystem still balances itself. Diseases adapt to new targets. Predators adapt to new victims. Life goes on until a new equilibrium is reached. End of the day invaders usually wipe out only species with which they are in a direct competition and which occupy the same ecological niche. Off the top of my head I cannot think of anything which occupies the same niche in the Arctic. Further south they will have to fight it with the common lobster. This will definitely suffer.

        Dunno, I have seen two such "doom" events in the Black Sea with the introduction of Rapana and Yellow Sea algae and they both came to pass. So will this if we do not poke it at the same time.
        • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @08:46AM (#15711832) Homepage
          Tell that to Australia.

          Australia is living proof that these doomsday population explosions CAN AND DO HAPPEN.

          Just because it hasn't happened yet in the Black Sea doesn't mean it won't. Such logic is dangerous, and needs to be taken with a *huge* grain of salt.

          It's better to err on the side of caution. If you do so, the worst thing that could happen is that the crabs get fished into extinction in the region, and we end up being no worse off than when we started.
          • Yeah, the aboriginals should have bashed the white devils heads in as soon as they sat foot on the "new" continent. The same goes for the native americans.
          • Australia is living proof that these doomsday population explosions CAN AND DO HAPPEN.

            Yes, we all live in fear of the cane toad bringing a sudden end to civilization in an orgy of, well, cane-toady-ness. Not to suggest that the tired, overhyped hyperbole-laden whinging about "doomsdays" and such might be overstating the danger somewhat....

            • It's not doomsday for the world, but doomsday for that particular species in the environment. The species reproduces, and reproduces, until all of the sudden, the environment is suddenly unable to support the species anymore, and the species dies off, leaving a devastated environment in its wake.

              It was actually a term [wikipedia.org] coined by mathematicians -- population models for species that are allowed to reproduce with no limits or caps to their population or abilities to reproduce until 'doomsday' -- that is, until
          • "Tell that to Australia."

            I'm reallly not worried about a neo arctic luxury food that is really easily caught.
        • by dalutong ( 260603 ) <djtansey.gmail@com> on Thursday July 13, 2006 @09:17AM (#15711984)
          I don't know of any water-based problems, but there have been plenty of stories of foreign species destroying local populations. The most recent story I've read is about poisonous toads in Western Australia that kills crocodiles (or is it alligators?) who eat them, and many other things. They now have so many they can't get rid of them.
          • I did not express myself clear enough.

            You have to take into account the size of the ecosystem as well. The smaller it is, the lower the "elasticity". Small, closed environments like lakes, islands, separated habitats with uniquely evolved life forms are quite prone to extinction events. There are plenty of examples like the New Zeland prehistoric giant eagle, Moa, the Dodo on Mauritius, so on so fourth. Once again, these are all relatively small ecosystems where the initial expansion can cause full extincti
            • Look up "Caulerpa Taxifolia"
              • 2000, 6 years so far.

                Not enough time to reach new equilibrium in a large aquatic ecosystem by all means. It took 30+ years for the Elodea plague to settle and European riverways to reach new equilibrium in the 19th century. In the places where a boat could not move like the river Cam you cannot see a single plant now.

                Similarly, the algae blooms in the black sea with the Yellow Sea algae strains took nearly 20 years to settle (and are in fact still settling, though there is obvious improvement compared to th
          • Unfortunately, the Cane Toad [wikipedia.org] problem in Australia is not recent. I was astonished when it showed up as 'news' on slashdot recently. I remember watching a documentary [imdb.com] about the Cane Toad menance back in the late 1980's.

        • Tell that to the Great Lakes with their problems with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamprey [wikipedia.org] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zebra_mussel [wikipedia.org]. Really wish they would die off. And I wouldn't want to drink from the Great Lakes either, especially from Lake Ontario - the open-air sewer for Rochester and Toronto. Though they are trying to clean the lakes up.
        • Would you please tell this story to the Japanese beetles chewing my raspberries and roses down to nothing? Here in the North-East US there seems to be a never-ending supply of those litter buggers...

        • Actually, Elodea is a huge problem where I live. We throw it on the shores to let it dry out and die. Still, the streams get clogged up and we lose water flow.
    • Crabs == oil (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SgtChaireBourne ( 457691 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @06:06AM (#15711397) Homepage
      Research already showed that those guys are quite temperature-sensitive. It is rather unlikely that they will be able to leave the artic water and reach as far as Gibraltar.

      It doesn't matter so much. For various reasons, including elevated water temperatures, fish stocks are gone from the sea quite far north. The crabs have been encroaching on the regions containing the last commericial stocks. Even Bergen and Trondheim, which were once great fishing ports, are dead and tropic species are occasionally sighted in the waters.

      With the quotas preventing the harvesting of the crabs, they are spreading more widely and more rapidly at an accelerating pace. Eventually the population will level off, but not before the last of the fish stock is ruined. The crabs pretty much wipe all organic matter from the bottom, especially tasty fish eggs. Without the eggs, there are no new fish. Without the fish, no fishing. Without the fishing, there will be no monied interests hindering oil drilling in the Barents.

      The Norwegians are in a hard place because of the oil and their ties to the petro dollar. They also can't risk pissing of the last western military power, Russia, over the oil either. They will eventually lose that game, unless they deal with the crabs. Open season and no catch limits on the crabs would give several enviromental and economic boosts to the region. They're quite good eating and can be sold for food, decimating them would help the fishing, but the crabs are just as good as materials for biofuels.

      • by gurutc ( 613652 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @06:28AM (#15711438)
        Aren't these the same crabs that make rich men out of entire crews who risk their lives working on fishing boats in Alaska?

        At my local grocer, I can buy a pound of king crab when it's on sale for around $20. I figure a 55 gallon barrel of these guys would weigh close to 500 pounds. Barrel of Sweet Light Crude goes for about $70. Barrel of Sweet Light Crab goes for $10,000. Hmmm... Is there some secret crab cartel, the Alaskan subsidiary of DeBeers, or maybe the Illuminati, arti-fish-ally controlling the market of my favorite crustacean?
        • As a bonus we get multiple Darwin award winners with the danger involved in harvesting this resource.
    • They reproduce quite fast, so they only need a short time to adapt to the higher temperature via natural selection. And as the sea-bed will go to waste, the presure to move south will increase, promoting adaptation. It will be intresting to follow the process.
  • The solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChowRiit ( 939581 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @04:02AM (#15711142)
    Despite the fact it is suggested in jest above, the best solution to most pest problems normally IS a culinary one. These crabs are definately edible, crab is considered somewhat of a delicacy to many (personally, I'm not a fan, but there are loads who love it), so all you need is to agree to remove quoats on this particular animal, or some similar arrangement, between Norway and Russia (the most challenging part) and start to push crab meat as a new big seller in the area.

    New Scientist have an article on the subject of eating through invading species, although you'll need a subscription to read it: http://www.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg187251 61.500.html [newscientist.com]
  • This is just another entry in the long list of 'we probably shouldn't have introduced this species into this environment' stories. Kind of like introducing Rabbits into New Zealand, or Foxes into Australia, or a myriad of other examples. They end up thriving and taking over, to the detriment of the various species that were already there.
    • Kind of like introducing Rabbits into New Zealand, or Foxes into Australia, or a myriad of other examples. They end up thriving and taking over, to the detriment of the various species that were already there.

      Why is that necessarily bad?
      • It isn't necessarily bad, but it could result in a massive population reduction of other species...

        ... including Homo sapiens.

        Maintaining what has been the status quo for thousands of years is seen as being much less likely to have that kind of effect.

      • Re:Always a bad idea (Score:5, Informative)

        by nosfucious ( 157958 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @06:29AM (#15711441)
        The rabbits that were introduced in to Australia have been an environmental nightmare.

        In certain conditions they populate so quickly you'll end up with a plague. The munch on all available grass and low level plants. Just leaving sand and soil behind. This valuable topsoil then gets blown away by wind or the occasional storm. Their burrows collapse and cause further run off problems after storms. Much of Australia doesn't have huge trees to bind the soil together. That's just one aspect.

        It only took a few rabbits too. Released just near Melbourne. Now they're all over the place.

        Mice (at times), Cane toads, Crown of Thorns starfish are all big problems. Foxes are a concern, but not on the same scale, or is that Tassie only? Domestic and stray cats are just as bit a problem in outer suburban/semi-rural areas, going after the native birds and small animals.

        All systems will find an equilibrium. Trouble is, that (nearly) isolated systems such as Australia don't have the natrual competitors for introduced species. They would form over time, just not in the short term that we live in and see. Foxes were introduced to try and get the rabbits, Cane Toads to get the Prickly Pear. They just caused thier own problems.
        • I know an old woman who swallowed a...
          She died of course.
        • by krell ( 896769 )
          Don't knock the Australian rabbit plague. Got rid of all that damned Trix cereal, yes it did.
        • Re:Always a bad idea (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Like2Byte ( 542992 )
          Let's talk about the solution the Aussies took to rid themselves of the rabbits - Biological Warfare.

          The decision to use rodent specific biological warfare (rabbit specific viruses and diseases) is debatable. However, one thing is certain - the rabbits and the viruses/diseases were all "contained" within the continent of Australia.

          Using biological warfare against these crabs would be a very bad idea. Oceanic currents would easily carry any bacteria/virus/agent all over the oceans of the world. Non-invasi
    • Actually, I always thought the stupidest one was the introduction of the mongoose into Hawaii [thinkquest.org].

      It was introduced to control another introduced species: rats. Why they thought the already-proven solution of cats was too primitive for them, who knows - but the grand stupidity of the attempt is that rats are nocturnal. Mongooses are diurnal. The two species never met.

      So now there are rats and mongooses in Hawaii.

      That example just proves to me that humanity really, really needs to learn ecological engineering, b
  • Desert? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @04:23AM (#15711178)
    Only according to someone who catches fish, not someone with any kind of credibility. I think you need some double-quotes in there:

    Millions of King Crabs "Turn Sea to Desert"
  • FTFA:

    "We can't use our nets or our deep lines anymore because the crabs claw them and ruin them," complains Arnulf Bertheussen, a fisherman in the Norwegian Arctic village of Honningsvaag.
    Seems like a not-so-great situation with a not-so-easy answer now. Aren't nets/deep lines the main ways to catch crabs en masse? Sadly, I fear no answer will come to us, since we're nerds, not fishermen (unless fishermen have become the new nerds of the century).
  • "How will I ever get rid of my male jelly now?"

    Well, someone had to say it!
  • HUGE! (Score:5, Funny)

    by famebait ( 450028 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @05:26AM (#15711308)
    The crabs weigh up to 12 kilograms (26 pounds) and measure up to two meters (6.5 feet) from pincher to pincher.

    -and this increases every time the story is told.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Corrected: Millions of king crabs turn sea to dessert
  • by Vengeance ( 46019 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @06:31AM (#15711443)
    Today's secret ingredient is: *dramatic pause* *dramatic pose* CRAB INFESTATION!
  • Deadliest Catch (Score:3, Informative)

    by 1WingedAngel ( 575467 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:36AM (#15711539) Homepage
    The Discovery Channel had a wonderful show on last season about these very crabs called The Deadliest Catch [discovery.com]. It was definitely worth watching.
    • Re:Deadliest Catch (Score:3, Informative)

      by dafz1 ( 604262 )
      I'm glad someone mentioned Deadliest Catch! I love that show!

      As a country seemingly lacking in AVAILABLE natural resource(oil in Siberia under miles of permafrost in inhospitable conditions isn't available), this could be a boon for the Russian economy. Also, with the introduction of crab quotas, there are a lot of out of work crab boat captains and crew in Alaska. Since they run so close to the Pacific side of Russia, I think most of them would be ok with "fishing" the Barents Sea.

      The downside is that t
      • Re:Deadliest Catch (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I am astounded that you can suggest that a) Russia lacks in available natural resources, particularly oil or b) Alaskan boats sail to the Barents Sea from the Pacific

        Russia is the third largest oil producer in the world.

        To get to the Barents Sea from Alaska, you would either have to sail south past California and Mexico, through the Panama canal, through the Gulf of Mexico and north accross the Atlantic past Iceland; or walk accross the Artic Ice; or sail across the Pacific, South past the Philipines, aroun
  • by corngrower ( 738661 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @07:38AM (#15711542) Journal
    One female crab can lay 500,000 eggs at a time, of which one or two percent will become crabs.

    So what do the other 98% of the eggs become, if not crabs?

  • Is someone armed with lemons and guns that shoot melted butter...

    I have the man for the job! [internationalhero.co.uk]

  • When I lived in Alaska, the ing Crab was pretty much over-harvested. Bottom fish, such as pollock, were then able to eat the small crabs before they became harvestable size. the Crab industry was in danger.

    Now, we have a different situation in the Barents Sea. There are not enough bottom fish to keep the crab population under control. I think I see a possible solution here that would revitalize the fishing industry for Norway and other Northern countries....
  • crab battle!

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27