Norwegian King Crab: The “cross-border” crab with world-class flavor

by | Jun 1, 2023 | Ukategorisert

Everyday, thousands of king crabs are checking into a large luxury hotel at Oslo Airport. They travel the world, only to end up in the hands of top chefs and enjoyed by customers.

King crabs have their own luxury hotel.

According to an American saying that actually dates back to Aristophanes, “You cannot teach a crab to walk straight.” But king crabs are unlike any other crab – on their long spiky legs they easily move both sideways and straight forward. Perhaps more astounding than their gait is the fact that, every day, thousands of them are checking into a large luxury hotel at Oslo Airport Gardermoen. From there, they travel the world, only to end up in the hands of top chefs in Tokyo, Seattle, Hong Kong and London.

The king crab in Norway is the red king crab – the largest and most delicious type of crab in the king crab family. In fact, red king crabs are not native to Norway, they crossed the border from Russia into this Nordic country in the 60s-70s.

Initially, Norwegians considered them to be monster crabs due to their rough shape full of thorns, quick reproduction of “heaps of offspring” No one had any idea that they would be so fruitful and multiply so quickly, and certainly no one suspected that they were going to devour everything in their path on their migration across the seafloor! As the monster crabs wandered westward, they left behind empty clams and other shells, and devastation scattered with remnants of starfish and other dead organisms.

Norwegian King Crab: The "cross-border" crab with world-class flavor - Image 1.

Steamed king crab. Photo:Norwegian Seafood Council.

By the 1990s, the crabs had grown so plentiful that the fishermen of Finnmark were pulling up fishing nets that were full of them. The fishermen were in deep despair, for this was a huge crisis.

The diligent Finnmarkers soon understood that it was utterly impossible to get rid of the monster crabs, so they might as well exploit them and make the most of their situation. It proved to be a wise strategy. Nowaday, the red king crab is perhaps the most prized invasive species on Norway’s blacklist. The Norwegian Black List is a written overview of invasive species in Norway with an ecological risk assessment for some species. 

Norwegian king crab is considered a luxury item on the banquet table, is a world-class delicacy because of its delicious, sweet, and rich meat, which contains many essential nutrients for the body such as vitamin B12, zinc, etc. selenium, iron…

And the value from the industry that has grown around Norwegian king crab is now truly surprising.

Fisheries management and strict regulations protect stocks

King crabs live in the Norwegian Sea area managed by the Norwegian government. Every year, the Norwegian Marine Research Institute (HAVFORSKNINGSINSTITUTTET) conducts a survey of king crab populations in East Finnmark, a quota fishing area.

Norwegian authorities have developed a two-part strategy to maintain a sustainable king crab population: First, quota-controlled long-term fishing in East Finnmark. Second, limit the spread of this species outside the designated area. Therefore, in order to protect other valuable species such as cod from being eaten by king crabs, fishing for king crabs in the western Northern Cape is not restricted.

Norwegian King Crab: The "cross-border" crab with world-class flavor - Image 2.

Seafood is transported onto the plane. Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council.

King crab is caught all year round, especially during the peak season from October to January. The number of vessels involved in the quota fishing varies slightly from year to year, but has reached nearly 100 over the years recently. 

In particular, the fishing fleet includes small boats near the shore, the distance to travel from the fishing area to the wharf is also very short. Fishermen will drop bait fish such as herring, cod in the trap. After releasing the trap, the fisherman would come back every few days to check and they were able to harvest 50 large king crabs in one trap.

Later, the trap is put on the boat, the fisherman will sort the catch. The crabs that do not meet the requirements for size and sex are released back into the sea. The crabs are kept alive in the tank until the boat comes ashore.

Due to the different annual fishing quotas, the amount of crab caught each year is also different, but on average, fishermen will catch about 1,500 tons of male crabs and 50 tons of female crabs per year.

According to strict regulations of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet), each operator must commit to an annual catch of no more than the quota and only catch and put into use adults King crabs usually weigh between 2 and 5 kg.

In particular, tourists are not allowed to directly participate in King crab fishing but a certain quota has been allocated to the tourist fishing industry in Finnmark. Therefore, tourists can catch King crab if they join a tour of a tour company that is licensed to fish under quota. 

How King Crab transported to Vietnam?