Crab sandwiches off the menu as shortage of crustaceans bites

Tuesday, 29th May 2018, 9:25 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th May 2018, 3:35 pm

Some of Britain's top coastal resorts are facing a 'crab crisis' after a sudden drop in supply caused some cafes and restaurants to drop the crustaceans from their menus.

Traders have noticed a sharp drop in availability since Christmas, with many blaming the Beast from the East for disrupting the supply chain.

Wholesale prices have soared and some outlets in Devon and Cornwall have started removing their popular crab sandwiches from their menu.

Fisherman as far afield as Whitby in Yorkshire and Cromer in Norfolk have reported stocks being down by 40 per cent.

Some restaurateurs in Sidmouth, Devon, say they have been unable to source any crab for months.

James Arnold, 37, general manager at the Pea Green Boat, said: "We haven't been able to get any crab for about three months.

"It's a problem because it brings people in. This time last year we were selling them hand over fist but this year we don't have any.

"People come in asking for it so it is frustrating.

"It's had an affect on passing trade, it was the headline item on the menu and people would see it and come in."

Expensive

Neil Harding, of nearby Neil's Restaurant, added: "I can get hold of it, but it's expensive. It's gone up 25 per cent in the last year.

"We've had to put our prices up to compensate."

In Cornwall, The Shack in Falmouth has resorted to serving lobster.

A spokesman said: "There has been a shortage, we literally couldn't get anything.

"We had to take it off the menu, it's quite bad.

"We still had lobster so we tried to steer customers onto new products."

Some people have blamed the shortage on the 'black gold rush' of September 2017, when British waters were invaded by crab-eating cuttlefish.

Baffled

However, fisherman Kim Aplin, 53, based in Beer, Devon, is baffled by the cause.

He (corr) said: "There has been a terrible shortage since Christmas, dreadful.

"It's beed really bad, people are saying it's the cold water but I don't think so. Some people say it's the cuttlefish but I don't believe that either.

"Cuttlefish do eat crab, but I don't think that's the cause. I don't understand why there is such a shortage.

"I don't know what's caused it. It's not just here, it's right around the coast.

"We've been pulling up lots of male crab but no female, usually for every 40 we get 20 are female, but not this year.

"Crab sandwiches are a speciality everywhere now because no on can get them."

Crab capital

Meanwhile in Cromer, Norfolk - hailed by some as the 'crab capital' of the UK - a similar decline has been reported.

The Beast from the East battered the East Anglian coastline, wreaking havoc with the sea floor and causing thousands of shellfish to wash up on the shore.

Crabber Andy Frary, who has been in the business since 1980, said he has seen a 40 per cent drop in the amount caught this year.

He said: "I'd say we're catching about 60 per cent of what we're usually catching,

"There's a number of factors which could contribute to this.

"One could be the Beast of the East, because that would churn up the seabed and the bigger or more juvenile crabs would have been injured.

"Another thing is the Beast of the East destroyed so many of our crab and lobster pots.

"We've lost about 200 and the ones we have found have been flattened.

'It will have an effect on us going forward because it'll take a few years for us to recover the cost: the pots are about £70 each.

"Plus, there's a limited amount of places you can get them and everyone's having the same trouble."

Crustacean kings

Other local fisherman have seen the same issue - but are assuring customers that the problem will be short-lived.

A spokesman for A and M Frary Shellfish in Wells-next-the-Sea, said: "There's nothing to be worried about.

"We have on and off years, and we haven't had an off year since about 2012.

"The colder waters have brought in spring cod which usually we never get around here.

"Less prolific seasons are always going to happen, especially after we've had some really good years.

"But that's why it's called fishing rather than catching, because you can't be catching something all the time."

Crab source

Up in Whitby, Andrew Wilkinson, manager of popular Whitby restaurant Trenchers, said it was very difficult to source crab earlier in the year due to the weather.

He said: "At the start of the year we could hardly get any in at all.

"Customers were asking for it but because of the 'beast from the east' and other bad weather it was difficult for us to get hold of any.

"Thankfully, our suppliers have been great recently and we have been able to serve the customers what they like.

"We had a few disappointed customers in the first few months of the year but it has calmed down now."