Crabbing feels the pinch of new guidelines

YOU'D have to pinch yourself to believe it.That was the view of crabbing enthusiasts after concerns were raised about one of summer's best-loved traditions.

Danielle Nuttall

YOU'D have to pinch yourself to believe it.

That was the view of crabbing enthusiasts after concerns were raised about one of summer's best-loved traditions.

Zoology students from Cambridgeshire University have carried out research into crabbing which revealed that overcrowding in buckets could cause distress for the smaller crustaceans and lead to fights.

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Their study has resulted in the production of thousands of leaflets warning youngsters how to look after the creatures without harming them.

But crabbing fans in Walberswick - home to the British Open Crabbing Championship - have been rather taken aback by the move, which they say is “over the top”.

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Walberswick parish councillor David Webb said: “It is common sense that you don't crowd crabs into a bucket. I cannot see that this research was necessary.

“Presumably somebody decided they were going to pay for the leaflets. I guess there was no other news.”

Robin Buncombe, vice president of the British Crabbing Federation, which organises the open championship every summer, added: “Everybody is concerned about the environment whether it's crabs, fish or whatever. I think they've gone over the top. There are other ways of doing it that are less heavy handed. They're stating the obvious.

“Quite simply we have insisted upon what Cambridge is suggesting for some time. We are extremely concerned about the welfare of crabs. We have rules in the championship to ensure welfare is a priority such as one in a bucket at one time.

“We specifically set the challenge of catching the single heaviest crab and not the number. We refuse to allow use of nets or hooks because they're not necessary and because they damage the crabs.

“The championship is a fun event and we take it tongue and cheek but from the outset we have had fundamental rules.

“I think too much emphasis has been put on what this study has shown.”

The leaflets were funded by the Norfolk Coast Partnership and the Wells Field Study Centre and distributed along the North Norfolk coast, another popular spot for crabbing.

Instructions include keeping only 10 crabs or fewer in a bucket at a time, holding the captives in seawater which is changed every hour and making sure the bucket is not left in direct sunlight.

Cambridge University student Will Pearse, who led the research, said the study was not intended to stop people enjoying the summer tradition.

“I think crabbing is really good. It's great for the environment as it gets people interested,” he said.

“Most people we spoke to didn't know how many legs a crab had. There was definitely a lack of information among members of the public.

“I found several buckets with more than 100 crabs - in an average seaside bucket. This was an obvious example of someone not following the guidelines.

“There was an increase in the number of damaged crabs in buckets with more crabs.”

A spokeswoman for the Norfolk Coast Partnership said: “We funded a small amount to produce the leaflet, just over £100.

“It's not trying to stop anyone doing it it's trying to help everyone enjoy it and make it safe for the crabs.

“Most people would prefer to know how to look after them than to actually harm them.”

The spokeswoman said other areas had expressed an interest in the leaflets.

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