Life as a crab fisherman

National Trust tenant crab fisherman Steve Harrison fishing off the Llyn Peninsula

Fresh, dressed crab is soon to be on the menu at our cafes in Wales, courtesy of Steve Harrison, our tenant crab fisherman from Aberdaron, Gwynedd.

Steve dreamt of becoming a crab fisherman from a young age. He says, ‘As a lad I saved my school dinner money and bred rabbits to buy my own boat and crab pots. By the age of 16 I had enough to buy the gear from a fisherman who was retiring. I’ve been fishing ever since.’

Steve is out in all weathers seven days a week from February to November
National Trust tenant crab fisherman, Steve Harrison
Steve is out in all weathers seven days a week from February to November

But in the 2000s, prices for crab were dropping and Steve was struggling to make a living from it. So in 2009, we offered to give him a helping hand. 

We helped Steve and another fisherman, Idwal Moore, to set up their own processing plant producing ready-to-eat dressed crab. 

The sustainably harvested crabs are cooked and dressed at nearby Cwrt Farm, buildings cared for by the National Trust. In fact, the buildings are only 800 metres from Porth Meduwy where the boats are launched for the crab fishing.

A family operation

Steve’s whole family are involved in the business: ‘I catch the crabs; my 19-year-old daughter Hannah picks, dresses and packs them at the factory; and my wife Natalie markets the crabmeat to chefs.’

The crab goes from sea to plate in 24 hours
Crab being processed at Aberdaron Seafood
The crab goes from sea to plate in 24 hours

‘Our crab goes from sea to plate in under 24 hours so it’s really fresh. We also pick the meat by hand, which I think makes them even tastier.’

Steve and Natalie’s crabmeat is now a star ingredient in Aberdaron’s pubs and cafes and they have won the Fine Farm Produce Award four times. Last year, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall even visited to try their seafood. 

Sustainably sourced

Sustainability is very important to Steve: ‘We recently campaigned for the minimum permitted size of crab to be increased to 140mm, which means they mature for an extra two years. 

‘We never land ‘berried’ (egg-bearing) hens (females). We fish from boats of 10 metres or under and only go out around 200 days a year.’ 

Putting crab on the menu

Later this year we will be introducing Steve and Natalie’s crabmeat into selected National Trust cafes in Wales, giving you the chance to try it for yourself.

A version of this article, by freelance food writer, Clare Hargreaves, first appeared in the National Trust Magazine summer 2017 issue. 

From catch to kitchen