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Cornish fishers renaming species unpopular with British buyers after Brexit disrupts EU market

Megrim and spider crab will be rebranded in desperate attempt to boost domestic market

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 09 February 2021 11:28 GMT
Spider crab will be given new name
Spider crab will be given new name (PA)

The Cornish fishing industry is changing the names of two of its most common catches in a bid to boost their appeal with British consumers because of post-Brexit problems exporting to Europe.

Until now, 95 per cent of Cornwall’s megrim fish and 85 percent of spider crab have been exported to Spain – but trade has been disrupted by the red tape difficulties stemming from Boris Johnson’s deal with the EU.

Desperate Cornish fishing chiefs are instead looking to local markets, but the two catches in question have traditionally been less than appetising for British diners.

“There’s this negative thing with megrim – it’s the ‘grim’ connotation,” Paul Trebilcock, chief executive of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation (CPPO) told The Times.

The spider crab apparently suffers not only because of a potentially off-putting name, but also because of its appearance, with Mr Trebilcock saying it “doesn’t look as pretty as brown crab”, the species more commonly eaten in the UK.

In hope of an image makeover, the CFPO, after consulting consumers, buyers and restaurateurs, is planning to relaunch the two species –with megrim set to be known as “Cornish sole”.

The spider crabs, meanwhile, are likely to be rebranded as the “Cornish king crab” in an effort to help them stand out with British buyers. 

It is hoped Cornish sole will become just as popular as its more expensive cousin, Dover sole, while the CFPO is also working with chef James Strawbridge to develop recipes for the rather plain-looking fish and spider crab.

The moves are reminiscent of other changes to fish names to make them sound more appealing. Patagonian toothfish, for example, was changed to become Chilean seabass in the US and Canada.

The move comes as the government criticised the EU for a ban on certain kinds of British shellfish imports, admitting it has been a “devastating blow” for the UK fishing industry.

Since the Brexit transition period ended, mussels, clams, cockles, scallops and oysters from most UK waters can only be exported to the EU if they are purified before departure and accompanied by an export health certificate – something the industry is not set up to do.

Environment secretary George Eustice said the government had been forced to advise traders their produce would be rejected at EU ports.

The minister blamed Brussels’ “indefensible” bureaucracy – insisting there was “no legal barrier” to prevent the trade. “We are just asking the EU to abide by their existing regulations and not to seek to change them,” he told LBC on Tuesday.

However, the EU has said its import rules of shellfish have existed for decades and are not about to change.

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