Relief as Cromer crab season kicks off

Cromer fisherman, John Davies, pictured at his shop with one of the first crab hauls of the season.P

Cromer fisherman, John Davies, pictured at his shop with one of the first crab hauls of the season.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Iconic Cromer crabs are at last being hauled ashore after one of the slowest starts to the seafood seasons in living memory.

The first catches come as a relief to the local catering industry which can put the delicacy on the menu for the first time this year – after the cold weather and sea put the crustacean crop on ice.

The arrival of the crabs in warming waters comes as preparations are under way for the upcoming crab and lobster festival, which was in danger of being short of one of its star attractions.

Experienced fisherman John Davies, who owns a fish shop on Garden Street Cromer, said: 'This year is one of the latest starts of the crab season that I have experienced in my lifetime.'

In the past it had started in the middle of February but he only started putting out the pots, which catch crabs and lobsters, two weeks ago.

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He said two boats which went out from Cromer beach three weeks ago came back with one crab each.

In stark contrast, Mr Davies caught about 1,000 crabs on Tuesday.

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He added: 'Easter was a total waste of time for the shop because every customer who came in wanted a Cromer crab. A lot of people didn't understand why there wasn't any.

'We are never going to make up the time we lost on the delayed start but because the market has been starved of crabs demand is high. We are hoping for a busy weekend with the bank holiday coming up.'

Crab sales amount to 70pc of total profits in Mr Davies' shop and he also supplies restaurants, cafés and sells at Lowestoft and Ipswich fish markets.

Jacqui O'Grady, owner of The Sandwich Stop on Church Street, Cromer, said she only started selling crab sandwiches and salads two weeks ago .

'People have gone away because I had no crab. It is popular - especially with tourists,' Miss O'Grady said.

She added there had been a slight knock-on effect to her business following the late crab sesason.

Louise Gillespie, owner of the Jetty Café on Jetty Street, Cromer, said lots of visitors to the town over Easter expected to have crab sandwiches.

She said: 'The season has been set back by a month. Whether or not we will recover from that is difficult to say?'

Kate Royall, secretary of the Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival, said: 'It is great the crabs are now here.

'The weather is one of those things you cannot rely on. The Cromer crab is iconic to the area and that is why we started the festival to highlight the towns as well as the wonderful seafood.'

The festival is in its fourth year and will take place between Friday May 17 and Sunday May 19 in Cromer and Sheringham.

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Last year between £1.8m and £2m worth of crab and lobsters were caught off the Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire coasts.

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