attention was recently focused on a so-called 'Invasion' of Spider
Crabs in Cardigan Bay. The story was carried on BBC Wales and BBC News
24 (see Spider
crab invasion). interviews were carried
out with Fishmonger Will Willis (see left) at the Fishmongers at 'Fish
on the Quay', Cadwgan Place, Aberaeron and with fisherman Winston Evans
in New Quay.
The story highlighted the Seafood of Cardigan Bay -
one of the best, yet least known natural resources of Cardigan Bay.
The mainstay of the local industry used to be the
Herring. In 1808 it was reported that the fisherman of New Quay and
nearby ports had caught nine million Herring in one night with catches
averaging 4,000 to 5,000 fish per boat per night.
wrote about New Quay in his Topographical Dictionary of Wales in 1833
are at present from sixty to seventy vessels belonging to this port,
averaging from forty to fifty tons' burden each, and employing from one
hundred and fifty to two hundred men. Fish of very superior quality is
found in abundance on this part of the coast, soles, turbots, and
oysters, being taken in great numbers during the season ; a good
herring fishery may also be established with advantage.'
By the 1830's
though, the catch had diminished and the fishing boats started to
disappear to be replaced by larger boats designed to trade in various
cargoes. The demise of the fishing industry at that time however gave
birth to the shipbuilding industry for which New Quay and Cei Bach
netting of fish has almost died out locally as resource
depletion and economic pressures have taken their toll.
years since then, the number of local fishing boats has continued to
decrease until there is often just a single boat going out of New Quay
and only a couple of boats from nearby Aberaeron.
mainstay of the local fishing industry today is Lobster and Brown or
Edible Crab with Mackerel and Sea Bass being the main fish species.
Will Willis tells me that he would like to see more local prawns on
sale - "Cardigan Bay Prawns are superb" he says, "the best in the
world". He also tells me that there are Brill, Lemon Sole and Dover
Sole in the Bay that are not at present being caught.
New Quay fisherman Winston Evans outside his fish store and Boat trip
South Wales, which has extensive sandy and muddy bays and estuaries,
the coast of Cardigan bay is mainly rocky with small sandy coves. As a
result cockles and other shellfish are not taken locally although some
are imported from Ireland.
are caught on long lines in Cardigan Bay. They are a fast swimming
shoaling predatory fish with some of the highest levels of Omega 3
fatty acids. These fatty acids are thought to have significant health
benefits including the lowering of blood cholesterol levels and
an overall improvement in cardiovascular health.
Evans has told of Mackerel shoals three miles long in days past. Today,
however finding Mackerel is more like finding a needle in a haystack he
said. He also noted that no Skate have been caught locally for some
almost more than any other industry has suffered from over-exploitation
and consequent depletion of fishing stocks over hundreds of years. The
small number of commercial fishermen in the area today reflects this
reality. There are just not enough Lobsters, Crabs and Fish to support
an economically viable larger local industry. However, Will Willis
assures me that the seafood that remains is of the highest quality,
large mainly foreign owned vessels take almost everything that swims in
the sea, local Fisherman and Fishmongers are trying to conserve stocks.
Will Willis tells me that he will not take berried (egg-bearing)
Lobsters and that he always tries to buy the larger mature fish leaving
the younger ones to grow and have a chance of reproducing.
Spider Crabs are
also taken locally in the summer months from mid May through August.
This is a species more commonly seen in France and Spain for it prefers
warmer waters to the south.
In the colder
months the Spider Crab stays in deeper water from 30 to 100 metres
where individuals spread out over a large area. When they come closer
to the shore in the summer, they may form dense mounds especially after
moulting when their shells are soft.
There have recently been bumper years for Spider Crabs whose meat is thought by many to
be at least as good as, or even superior to that of the more
traditionally taken Brown Crab.
Nature is very resilient. Species will decline when
predation is excessive, but will bounce back when those pressures
decrease - at least up until a certain point. There is evidence that
North Sea Cod stocks may never recover, but there is every hope that
Cardigan Bay fish stocks will have stabilised and may even increase in
future years with so few fishing boats going out locally.
Whatever the final outcome, both local residents
and visitors alike can enjoy locally caught seafood, confident that its
quality is first rate and that its consumption supports the