On safari in search of king crabsComment on this story
Kirkenes, Norway - King crabs can grow up to 80 centimetres in length and weigh in the region of 10 kilograms.
Visitors to northern Norway can not only enjoy the regional delicacy on their dinner plates but also have the chance to go on a crab safari to the best fishing grounds on a local fishing boat.
The view is masked by sea spray and a cold maritime wind chills the body as the motor boat makes its way over the Barents Sea. The only noises to be heard come from the diesel engine and the calls of a couple of seagulls following the vessel.
The departure point of Kirkenes has long since disappeared from view when Ronny Ostrem pulls his boot up alongside a buoy before hauling a large green fishing net on board containing almost 40 king crabs.
Ostrem squeezes the legs of the crabs between his thumb and finger to ascertain whether they contain enough meat.
He throws the smaller crabs back into the water although in winter this is the exception rather than the rule as it is high season and the water is ice free thanks to the Gulf Stream.
King crabs, also called stone crabs, are chiefly found in cold seas. Although native to the North Pacific, the crustaceans were introduced to the Barents Sea near Murmansk in the 1960s by Russian scientists and have since spread rapidly towards the Norwegian coast due to a lack of natural enemies.
Some scientists argue that the crabs are destroying the local ecosystem's balance and have called for them to be eradicated.
Because of their large size and the taste of their meat, many species of king crab are widely caught and sold as food across the world. They are considered delicacies in countries such as the United States and Japan, while Norwegian fishermen from Finnmark province are now making a handsome living offering crab safaris to tourists.
Crab fishing is strictly regulated in Norway and only a few fishermen hold licences. Locals are only allowed take 10 male king crabs a year out of the sea for their own use.
But the crabs are a good income source for people like Ostrem, who used to be a pilot but had to give up his job for health reasons.
Ostrem decided to open up a small tourism business in his native town of Kirkenes, offering almost everything visitors to northern Norway would looking for, including dog-sled tours, a snow hotel, reindeer park, walking trips and crab safaris.
In Finnmark, close to the border with Finland and Russia, nature is the biggest attraction.
Ostrem lowers the net back into the water, turns the boat engine back on and returns to harbour. In a small red-coloured fishing hut, Ostrem prepares his catch, gutting each crab before cutting the legs off and throwing them into a pot of salted water to steam for 17 minutes until they turn orange in colour.
It is slightly tricky removing the meat from inside the leg but it is well worth the effort. Ostrem squeezes some lemon juice over his crab meat before consuming it with some buttered white bread and a glass of chilled white wine.
At such a moment, life could not be better. - Sapa-dpa