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Cracking Crabs in South Devon

PUBLISHED: 13:45 21 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:35 20 February 2013

Dawn Spencer and David Markham (Blue Sea Co), Tim Bouget (Ode Restaurant, Shaldon), Mitch Tonks (Seahorse Restaurant), Nick Hutchings (Channel Fisheries), Sarah Streeter (Visit South Devon) and Sue Wiles (Visit South Devon).

Dawn Spencer and David Markham (Blue Sea Co), Tim Bouget (Ode Restaurant, Shaldon), Mitch Tonks (Seahorse Restaurant), Nick Hutchings (Channel Fisheries), Sarah Streeter (Visit South Devon) and Sue Wiles (Visit South Devon).

It's tasty, healthy sustainable – and it's right on our doorstep!"

The crab export market from this region is massive.;2,000 tonnes of crab are landed in the South Devon area annually, but over 60% of the crab is exported live to France and Spain; some are even flown to Hong Kong and China. But food miles aside, now it is time to make more of a fuss about crabs fished from the coast right on our doorstep.


South Devon crab is the focus for a major new national food tourism campaign recently launched by the Visit South Devon tourism partnership in association with the celebrity seafood chef Mitch Tonks. The Have a cracking time in South Devon campaign actively encourages visitors from across the UK to come to South Devon to enjoy one of the most delicious yet undervalued great natural local resources, South Devon crab.


One man who really understands the local crab industry is crab fisherman Nick Hutchings, from Beesands, who set up Britannia Shellfish, part of Channel Fisheries, in 1995. Nick has been fishing in and around Start Bay all his working life, and he is out in his boat The Britannia of Beesands almost every day of the year. He has around 700 crab pots in the bay. Nick explains that fishing with crab pots is very sustainable, and supplies are so plentiful that we could all eat crab all day, every day if we wanted to!

Nick hopes that this campaign will help to promote crab as more of a luxury item. Although the export market is massive, we should definitely be making more of crab locally here, explains Nick. Crab has definitely been selling more in our shop since the campaign began, which is great for us.


"We should definitely be making more of crab locally here


And why is South Devon crab so special? South Devon crab does taste better. It has more flavour, perhaps this is to do with the seabed here, and the fact that the habitat is more protected so it creates a safe haven for the crabs. Our crabs are also very large in size.


The Marine Conservation Society has said that South Devon is one of the most sustainable place to get pot-caught crab in the UK, and the larger landing sizes of crab in this area is due to the quality of the fisheries. Fishermen in South Devon only take crabs above a certain size, so the numbers are healthy and the crabs are able to live a longer, happier life. Potting is a sustainable method of catching crab as there is no by-catch of non-target species, and small and soft crabs can be returned to the sea alive.


South Devons Inshore Potting Agreement (IPA) has functioned effectively since 1978 to reduce conflict between potters and trawler and dredging fishermen.


"Devon crab is sweeter and tastier, plus they are a better yielding crab. We think its the best.


In recent years, people in the UK became keen to have access to more hand-picked crab rather than whole uncooked crabs. So Blue Sea Co was set up in 2004 to process crab meat and fill this gap in the market. David Markham who runs the crab processors, Blue Sea Co in Paignton, eats the crab every day to test it, but still doesnt get sick of the taste. We process crab from all over the UK but Devon crab is sweeter and tastier, plus they are a better yielding crab. We think its the best.


David and the rest of the team are keen to make crab more accessible to all. Its much cheaper than lobster, but still a luxury product. People dont have to buy whole crabs, they can eat crab sandwiches and dressed crab without hand-picking it themselves, explains David.


It is important that people realise that crab is abundant, delicious and healthy. One dressed crab has all the Omega 3 oils you need for the week, so it is very good for you, says David.


Brown crabs and spider crabs are fished in pots in South Devon but the majority that are landed are brown crab. This season starts in May and brown crabs are at their best during the autumn months when they are at their biggest. Crabs have the most meat on them towards early Autumn, because they have built up their resources over the summer, and they are the sweetest to eat in South Devon.

The recent launch of the South Devon crab campaign took place at Mitch Tonks renowned seafood restaurant The Seahorse in Dartmouth. Mitch is an award-winning chef and believes that South Devon crab is unique and that it will be a great hit with visitors to the area. South Devon crab is without doubt the finest in the world - an unsung hero and a joy to eat. If I could get everyone that comes to South Devon to share the experience of eating freshly boiled crabmeat with mayonnaise, I know they would absolutely love it and that would be my job done!

Chefs from many restaurants, pubs and cafs across the region are backing the campaign. Find out more about South Devon crab, how to cook it and where to taste it at www.visitsouthdevon.co.uk/crab.

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