The compassionate guide to catching a crab

A A A

The timeless summer pursuit of dangling a hook laced with morsels of bacon over the harbour side in the hope of luring a hungry crab has been a rite of passage for generations of children visiting Norfolk's celebrated seaside villages.

Yet while families may look back nostalgically on golden memories of sunny days spent filling buckets full of snared crustaceans, the pursuit affords an altogether different experience for the poor old crab.

This week, visitors to Wells-next-the-Sea in north Norfolk are to be issued with guidelines to ensure that idyllic summer days do not result in lasting damage to the area's crab population. From Friday, those buying plastic buckets and crabbing lines from local shops will be handed a list of dos and don'ts, which it is hoped will put an end to incidents of unintentional crab abuse.

The guidelines, contained in 10,000 free leaflets, will include advice such as limiting the number of aggressive males kept in each bucket, ensuring they are immersed in supplies of fresh sea water and of not placing them in direct sunlight. The initiative follows a study by zoologists from Cambridge University, which found that Wells's native population of shore crabs, or Carcinus maenas, was suffering from a much higher incidence of damaged or missing pincers on stretches of beach where crabbing took place compared with those parts free of bait-dangling tourists.

Experts say the reason for the injury toll is that too many crabbers are overfilling their buckets, resulting in the seabed scavengers becoming stressed and attacking each other. In the very worst cases inadequate conditions result in asphyxiation.

The Cambridge zoologist Helen Green said that during the research project some children were found to be keeping up to 130 crabs at a time. "We want people to carry on crabbing – it is a really important seaside tradition and a very good way for youngsters to learn about marine ecology," she said. "But there was a lack of knowledge. People want to care for the crabs and were asking for more information. But when they are kept in this really confined space they will get stressed and attack each other and even kill each other."

The education programme has won praise from the RSPCA and is being backed by the Wells Field Studies Centre, which promotes understanding of the region's unique wildlife.

But while East Anglia makes much of its association with Carcinus maenas, elsewhere they are not so popular. Known as the common littoral crab, green or European shore crab, it is listed among the top 20 of the world's most invasive alien species, along with such nasties as the malaria mosquito.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Anna Smaill’s debut novel, The Chimes, is a fusion of fantasy and romance
booksMan Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Sport
Ji So-Yun scores the only goal of the game
sport
Arts and Entertainment
One of the Pyongyang posters, the slogan of which reads: ‘Let the exploits of the northern railway conductors shine!’
art
Life and Style
Linguine with mussels and fresh tomatoes
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer