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Spatial Distribution and Commercial Productivity of Snow Crab (Chionoecetes opilio) Under Climate Change


Photo caption: A pair of mating Snow Crabs. Photo: Richard Larocque, DFO

Snow Crab is one of Canada's marine fishery resources that is most adapted to cold, and may be especially sensitive to climate-change related warming. Snow Crab populations and fisheries currently only exist on Canada's East Coast, however this ecologically and commercially important species appears to be rapidly spreading from the North Pacific and Chukchi Sea toward the western Canadian Arctic. This project will fill knowledge gaps necessary for predicting the impact of climate change on this species, with a focus on its core habitat in eastern Canada, the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Existing and new information will be integrated to:

  • describe and model the distribution of Snow Crab (i.e. selected benthic life history stages) in relation to environmental factors such as temperature, circulation, depth, and sediment;
  • model future distributions of mature females, larval drift, juveniles, and male size at the final molting stage under accepted climate change scenarios; and
  • propose a conceptual framework of Snow Crab productivity and vulnerabilities to climate change under current management practices, which will provide general guidance for developing adaptive management strategies for this species in the face of climate change.

Modeling will also address the impact of temperature on Snow Crab growth and final size, two important drivers of the fisheries' productivity.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)


Atlantic: Gulf of St. Lawrence, St. Lawrence Estuary

Principal Investigator(s)

Bernard Sainte-Marie
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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