'Crab crisis' forces popular dish off menus in Sidmouth

PUBLISHED: 12:15 26 May 2018

Kay Bagwell of Sidmouth Trawlers

Kay Bagwell of Sidmouth Trawlers

Archant

Seafood restaurants in Sidmouth are facing a ‘crab crisis’ with the popular dish being removed from the menu because of dwindling supplies from local fishermen.

Fishing boats on the beach at Beer - where have all the crab gone?Fishing boats on the beach at Beer - where have all the crab gone?

“We haven’t had it on the menu for over two months,” said Chris Pike, of The Pea Green Boat restaurant. “Every day people come in and ask, ‘where are the crab sandwiches?’.”

The restaurant sources its crab locally and during the summer would normally take a fresh delivery every day.

“It’s definitely affecting the menu in Sidmouth,” said Chris. Some places might serve frozen crab, but it was a ‘completely different product’, he added.

Crab fisherman Kim Aplin, from Beer, who supplies many local businesses, said he had never known it this bad.

Neil's mango and crab starterNeil's mango and crab starter

“Even I can’t make a crab sandwich at the moment,” he said.

Kim added that, strangely, 90 per cent of the crabs he caught were male, with just 10 per cent female.

“I could sell my crab five times over at the moment. Where people are getting their crab from, I don’t know,” he said.

At Dukes, general manager Jo Watson reported massive problems getting local crab so far this season, adding: “At this time of year we usually have crab cakes, crab linguine and so on, but we haven’t been able to source enough to put these dishes on the menu.”

Crab - forced off the menu by scarcityCrab - forced off the menu by scarcity

Meanwhile, Neil Harding, of Neil’s Restaurant, said he was managing to buy crab but the price had risen by 25 per cent. He had heard the shortage was caused by cuttlefish eating the young crab last year, but no-one is really sure what the cause of the decline is.

“We’ve had to put up prices and reduce portions to compensate,” said Neil.

Andy Witheridge, owner of The Salty Monk in Sidford, said he changed the menu according to availability. Crab has been off his menu for two years.

He said: “It should be seen as a luxury and not just rammed in a sandwich.”

Kay Bagwell of Sidmouth TrawlersKay Bagwell of Sidmouth Trawlers

Kay Bagwell, of Sidmouth Trawlers fish shop, said her cousin Neil Bagwell, a fisherman in Exmouth, put down 60 crab pots and brought back only eight crabs.

In good times, a fisherman might get that many in each pot.

Kay’s son Ryan, who makes regular trips to Brixham market for the family business, said a shortage of supplies had forced prices up from £5 a kilo to £8.

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