Wellington, NZPA - The Government has approved a special exploratory permit to see if deepwater king and red crabs can be caught at commercial levels.
The Ministry of Fisheries granted Crabco Ltd, an umbrella company representing most of those who catch deepwater crabs, a permit to undertake research and exploratory fishing.
The permit will provide information to establish a total allowable catch for king crab and red crab in future.
Both species could be marketed as high-value products in Europe, Asia and the US, as the practice of catching them in pots allows for live exporting.
King crabs, which grow up to 1.2 metres long, are already a valuable commodity for fishermen in the northern hemisphere where they command high prices.
Twenty three varieties of king crabs were found in the New Zealand, Australian and Ross Sea regions, leading one National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research scientist to proclaim New Zealand as the "king crab capital of the world" earlier this year.
Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley said the 3-1/2 year permit would not result in sustainability concerns.
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