‘Fishermen are seriously worried’ - Report raises concerns over crabbing in Cromer

Cromer fisherman John Davies.

Cromer fisherman John Davies. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Cromer crabs are world famous, but a report investigating the effect of fishing for them off the north Norfolk coast has left fishermen concerned about the future of their industry.

John Davies Fish Shop in Cromer Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

John Davies Fish Shop in Cromer Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

The Cromer Shoal Chalk Bed, located off the coast between Weybourne and Happisborough was designated a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) in 2016.

Since the MCZ was created, Natural England has been investigating the health of the chalk bed and effect of potting -the method of using pots to fishing for crabs and lobsters- on it.

Now, it has issued advice to Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (EIFCA) that potting and especially storing pots on the reef damages raised areas of the chalk and although individual incidents are small scale the cumulative effect is significant.

Natural England is advising storing pots on the bed is stopped immediately and a way of managing fishing on the chalk bed, which protects the environment while enabling the fishing to continue, be established.

The Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ. Picture: North Norfolk District Council

The Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ. Picture: North Norfolk District Council - Credit: North Norfolk District Council

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But the news has come as a shock to the fishing community.

John Davies, head of the North Norfolk Fisherman’s society, said many fishermen were extremely concerned by Natural England’s advice and what it meant for their livelihoods.

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He said: “Right from the beginning of the MCZ project, they have said potting does no damage to the chalk and how important it is and we were happy doing what we were doing.

“[The advice] has come as a bit of a shock and there’s an awful lot of fishermen seriously worried about where we go from here.”

Mr Davies said fishermen had known the importance of the habitat for generations as it was in their best interests to look after it.

He said: “This has got the potential, if [Natural England] stick to their guns, to end this fishery.”

A spokesperson for Natural England said: “Our pioneering research shows that this irreplaceable part of our natural world is being damaged by human activity. Crab and lobster fishing appears to be contributing to significant damage.

“Although we can never reverse the damage, we can stop it continuing by making changes to fishing practices.

“We look forward to working together with the fishing community and our partners to find ways of protecting this important ecosystem while ensuring north Norfolk’s historic fishing industry continues to thrive into the future.”

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