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Warnings over future shortage of crab fishermen in Cromer

PUBLISHED: 11:06 29 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:51 29 August 2018

Crab fisherman John Lee hauls pots from his boat off the coast of Cromer in Norfolk. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

Crab fisherman John Lee hauls pots from his boat off the coast of Cromer in Norfolk. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

An eighth-generation fisherman has warned of a future shortage of people to catch Cromer crabs due to a lack of interest in the job.

John Lee, 55, said it is a “real concern” experience is not being passed on to the next generation.

An apprenticeship scheme was attempted in the past, he said, and “none of them stuck at it”.

Mr Lee, who owns J Lee Crabstall, added: “Yes, it’s hard work but I look at it as a challenge, especially on the rough days.

“You just get in the mindset of ‘you’re not going to beat me, I am going to keep hauling these pots, I am going to land these crabs’.

Cromer is famous for its crabs but the seaside town is facing a future shortage of fishermen to catch them. Photo: Joe Giddens/PACromer is famous for its crabs but the seaside town is facing a future shortage of fishermen to catch them. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

“That’s what’s paid my mortgage and paid for my kids to have an upbringing.

“There’s a good living to be had, the demand is there and it’s always going to be there.

“They need to get up and do a bit of work.”

The father-of-four, who works 90 to 100 hours per week during the crab season, said this year had been a struggle due to the long winter shortening the crab fishing season by more than a month.

Eighth-generation Cromer crab fisherman John Lee says young people are not sticking at the job. Photo: Joe Giddens/PAEighth-generation Cromer crab fisherman John Lee says young people are not sticking at the job. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

He said in a good year he would catch 500 crabs per day early in the season, but this year it was more like 200.

“You have highs and lows, we always have, that’s just part and parcel of the job,” he said.

“That’s probably why there’s only a few of us left as you get years like this where you struggle to make a living.”

Mr Lee, who left school at 15 to work with his father as an eighth-generation crab fisherman, said there were almost 50 Cromer crab fishermen when he began and now there are no more than 10 of them fishing regularly.

The father-of-four works 90 to 100 hours per week during the crab season. Photo: Joe Giddens/PAThe father-of-four works 90 to 100 hours per week during the crab season. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

Among them is Matt Bywater, 36, who is one of Cromer’s youngest crab fishermen.

He worked in a series of different jobs, before deciding aged 30 to follow in his father’s footsteps as a fisherman.

He said: “The fishing industry, yes it’s hard work, but if you’re willing to work you can do as much as you like as such and earn as much as you like.

“There’s a bit of a stigma with the fishing industry, just the nature of the job really, and also the set-up costs.

Crab fisherman John Lee brings his boat ashore on the beach at Cromer. Photo: Joe Giddens/PACrab fisherman John Lee brings his boat ashore on the beach at Cromer. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

“We’ve had youngsters, school leavers, try and do a bit.

“But if you want a lifestyle of going out with your mates and what not you’re probably coming in at half three in the morning rather than getting up at half three in the morning (to work) so it doesn’t really fit and bode well.”

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