Kirkenes is one of the main ports for harvesting king crabs in the Barents Sea. King crabs landed at Bugøynes, approx. 100 km west of Kirkenes, are exported live to restaurants around the world, which a large proportion of the West Russian king crab fleet is based in Kirkenes.
The first attempt to introduce the red king crab to the Barents Sea from the Pacific Ocean took place in the early 1930s. However, this proved unsuccessful, apparently due to poor equipment to store and transport the crabs.
The experiment was repeated in 1959, and this time proved successful. Ten large female crabs were caught in the Sea of Japan off the coast of Vladivostok, and transported from east to west across the former Soviet Union. All the crabs survived the long trip and were kept at an aquaculture station near Murmansk over the winter. In the spring, they were released into the fjord along with five male crabs. During the period 1961-69, 1.5 million crab larvae were released into the Barents Sea. The last resettlement took place in 1977-78 when 1,200 adult king crabs were released into Kola Bay. Consequently, the current king crab population in the Barents Sea may be traced back to these crabs.
The first recorded catch of a king crab in the Soviet part of the Barents Sea was in 1974, while in January 1977 a king crab was caught in a net in the Varangerfjord for the first time. This coincided with a confirmation from the Soviet authorities that the red king crab had been introduced to the Barents Sea, and that they considered the introduction of this species to be successful.
King crab safaris are offered year-round in Kirkenes. In summer you head out to sea by boat, while in winter you can also catch crabs through a hole in the fjord ice.
Thon Hotel Kirkenes and Scandic Hotel Kirkenes both have aquariums with live king crabs in the hotel lobby.
King crab features on the menu of several restaurants in Kirkenes, while most organised king crab safaris include a crab meal based on the catch of the day.