Fishing Activity in the MCZ
The main commercial fishing activity that occurs within the MCZ targets Brown Crab (Cancer pagurus) and European Lobster (Homarus gammarus) using pots. Fishing using pots has occurred within what is now the MCZ for many generations, with some fishermen able to trace eight generations within the fishery. Intimately intertwined with local heritage and family histories, the fishery continues to be very important socially and economically to the area, supporting a wide range of local fishing and tourism businesses.
Crabs and lobsters are typically fished from beach-launched vessels that are under 10 metres in length, and often worked single-handed. The crabs and lobsters are caught using pots made from steel, plastic and/or wood. The pots are connected by rope with an anchor and a buoy at each end. These strings of pots are called ‘shanks’. There may be between 10 and 40 pots per shank. Pots are baited and then “set” at sea at locations determined by local knowledge and experience, then left for a period (typically a few days) before being hauled (lifted out of the water) and the catch emptied and sorted. Undersized crabs and lobsters are returned to the sea immediately, as are soft-shelled or egg-bearing individuals. There is little to no bycatch associated with this fishing method. The overall scale of the fishery (e.g. number of pots used per vessel) has increased over time although catch per unit effort (the number of crabs/lobsters caught relative to the level of activity) has remained relatively stable.
The fishery is undertaken by some fishermen year-round, but the main season is between late March to October with typically a slower period over the winter months, following the activity of the crabs.
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food (October 1966), The Norfolk Crab Fishery
This documentary, coproduced by Jaime Taylor of Postcode Films and researchers Dr. Carole White and Dr. Natalie Djohari of the University of East Anglia, highlights the historical nature of the North Norfolk potting fisheries, how intertwined they are with local identities and family histories, as well as the systemic challenges faced by young people who wish to pursue local fishing careers.
This documentary traces North Norfolk’s crab and lobster fishermen throughout the centuries.