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Brown Crab: Safe and Sustainable from Catch to Table

22nd April 2010
Brown Crab: Safe and Sustainable from Catch to Table

In the region of 9,000 tonnes of edible brown crab are caught by Irish fishermen each year with a value of over €9 million, making this one of the most important sectors of the Irish Fishing industry. As the Competent Authority for the enforcement of sea-fisheries law and food safety law in the seafood sector, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) works to ensure the sustainability of these stocks and also to promote food safety in the seafood sector.

In the past almost all Irish caught brown crab was exported to Europe, however new markets have been developed in many other locations including Dubai and Hong Kong. Irish people are now beginning to appreciate this home sourced gourmet food themselves with Irish processors supplying a variety of quality crab products to the food service sector and supermarkets.

To help ensure the safety and sustainability of this valuable wild fishery the SFPA are asking consumers to take some simple precautions when purchasing their crab this Easter. Firstly, when buying whole crab, whether live or cooked, it is important to ensure that the product measures at least 130mm across the widest part of the shell. This is approximately the width of a two-litre milk bottle. The sale and/or display of undersize crab is illegal and highly damaging to stock survival and the SFPA requests that consumers who find undersize crab on sale to report it to the SFPA’s confidential line at 1890 76 76 76.

Crab claws are a popular choice for consumers as they are easier to cook and prepare than live crab and contain the best quality crab meat. The practice of de-clawing crab at sea can be very damaging to crab stocks and Irish fisheries are therefore tightly regulated to minimise this practice and its negative impact on the viability of stocks. Consumers are therefore encouraged to question the provenance of crab claws when purchasing. Information on the origin and production method must be displayed with all unpackaged fish, and the SFPA encourages consumers to take cognisance of this information when making their purchasing choices. Reputable fish suppliers will be happy to discuss the sources of their crab and crab meat.

As with all foods, proper handling at every stage from purchase to consumption is essential to ensure food safety. Live crab or raw crab claws should be purchased on the day of consumption and kept iced or refrigerated until cooked. Processed crab should also be kept refrigerated until consumption. Consumers are advised to purchase ready-to-eat food, such as cooked crab towards the end of their shopping trip and place it in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

Peter Whelan, Chairman of the SFPA said, ‘The Irish Crab industry is of major importance to many coastal communities. The SFPA are committed to working with this sector of the fishing industry to promote compliance with conservation and food safety requirements. Consumers have an important role to play in helping to ensure the food they purchase and consume is fished responsibly and handled safely.’

By following these few simple precautions, described in the SFPA’s Consumer Advice Leaflet, you can enjoy safe sustainable Irish brown crab this Easter.

Published in Coastal Notes
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Coastal Notes Coastal Notes covers a broad spectrum of stories, events and developments in which some can be quirky and local in nature, while other stories are of national importance and are on-going, but whatever they are about, they need to be told.

Stories can be diverse and they can be influential, albeit some are more subtle than others in nature, while other events can be immediately felt. No more so felt, is firstly to those living along the coastal rim and rural isolated communities. Here the impact poses is increased to those directly linked with the sea, where daily lives are made from earning an income ashore and within coastal waters.

The topics in Coastal Notes can also be about the rare finding of sea-life creatures, a historic shipwreck lost to the passage of time and which has yet many a secret to tell. A trawler's net caught hauling more than fish but cannon balls dating to the Napoleonic era.

Also focusing the attention of Coastal Notes, are the maritime museums which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of historical exhibits for future generations.

Equally to keep an eye on the present day, with activities of existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector and those of the energy exploration industry.

In addition Coastal Notes has many more angles to cover, be it the weekend boat leisure user taking a sedate cruise off a long straight beach on the coast beach and making a friend with a feathered companion along the way.

In complete contrast is to those who harvest the sea, using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety poses an issue, before they set off to ply their trade at the foot of our highest sea cliffs along the rugged wild western seaboard.

It's all there, as Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied to the environment from which they came from and indeed which shape people's interaction with the surrounding environment that is the natural world and our relationship with the sea.

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