Nature Notes: Crabbing engages youngsters with natural world

Remember, there is a ‘good crabbing’ etiquette

Remember, there is a ‘good crabbing’ etiquette - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A number of summer activities have, of course, had to be cancelled this summer due to Covid-19 but one activity has been completely unaffected by the strictly enforced rules of mask wearing and social distancing – the age-old pastime of crabbing!

As the world rapidly changes, and not always for the better, it’s heartening to see the joy dangling a line (with a piece of bacon or ham tied to the end) still brings to a 21st century child.

Walking around Torquay harbour, well-spaced out families were eagerly competing to find out who could catch the most of these nippy crustaceans.

There is a ‘good crabbing’ etiquette:

• remember to add seaweed to the crabbing bucket to give them somewhere to hide

• don’t leave the bucket in the sun

• don’t keep too many crabs in one bucket, aim for a maximum of ten

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• most important of all, remember to return your catch at the end of the day.

The crab species most often caught in our area is the common shore crab or green crab.

Despite the alternative name, this crab is highly variable in colouration and can range from brown, through to the more usual green, with some individuals occasionally turning up that are almost reddish/orange.

The common crab grows to a maximum size of about 9cm across the carapace and, as I witnessed - and one lad painfully discovered - the other day, those claws can, if you are not careful, deliver a painful nip!

A top tip is to always pick them up from the back to avoid getting nipped.

Unlike its relative, the edible crab - identifiable by the pie-crust edging to its brown shell - the common crab isn’t eaten and its main role is to clean up the sea bed, scavenging the seabed for any form of dead marine animal... or juicy pieces of bacon!

Of course, the best thing about crabbing is that it gets youngsters - and the not so young - outside and engages them with the natural world, providing a hands-on experience that might spark further interest in what other life forms live beneath the waves - and that can only be a good thing.