The Mass Disappearance of Snow Crabs

By Noel Fernandez, AGE 9

Snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio). Photo: Georgy Vinogradov, Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that there is more than one type of crab species? There are over 4,500 species of crabs today. We are focusing on one specific type: the snow crab. Snow crabs live in icy cold waters in the Bering Sea of Alaska, with temperatures as low as 2 degrees Celsius (35 degrees Fahrenheit). However, a large marine heat wave has caused 10-11 billion crabs to starve to death.  

 It is necessary for snow crabs to live in cold water because if they are in hot water, it could be fatal. In warmer temperatures, they need to eat more because their metabolism increases. Since their metabolism has increased, the snow crabs must keep up with their caloric demand. As a result, the expected annual revenue for Alaskan fisheries plummeted from a whopping $150 million to a mere $24 million in the 2021-2022 crabbing season.

Researchers are studying the effects of temperature and other conditions on snow crabs, such as their development, growth and survival, as mentioned in the article ‘’Why billions of snow crabs disappeared from the Bering Sea’’ by Kirsten Dobroth, KMXT. They are using trackers and computer monitoring to observe the crabs’ movements and also study blood samples. They use little tanks to see how crabs react to the sea-like floor in colder temperatures. Scientists “are hopeful that lessons learned from snow crabs might provide insight into how other marine species handle climate change as the ocean warms,” Dobroth says.  

There are ways to help reduce the mass disappearance of snow crabs and help reduce the marine heat waves by strengthening the ecosystem. We can help contribute to the environment’s resiliency by not throwing trash on beaches or seas and by being more careful with other habitats so that they can withstand challenges posed by marine heat waves.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *