Scarborough trawler ‘Independence’ nets a crawfish, Palinurus elephas, a rare catch for the Central North Sea

The crew of the Scarborough trawler Independence, FR 196, had a surprise when emptying their net off Flamborough recently, when they discovered a crawfish among the catch. The North Sea is not within the usual distribution of the crawfish, Palinurus elephas, so it was not surprising that the crew of the trawler had not seen one before. Skipper Mark Cappleman, realising he’d caught something unusual, put the spiny crustacean in a tub of water and made a few calls ashore to find out more about his catch.

We could tell Mark that this is the first crawfish ever taken by a boat working out of Scarborough, and according to our biodiversity records, it is only the fourth to be found in the Central North sea area, the first being a long way back when a specimen was taken by a beam trawler in the 1880’s, curiously enough in the same area, off Flamborough Head.

The specimen from Independence is now being kept alive in one of our holding aquaria until a larger tank is prepared.

The crawfish is common off the south-west of the British Isles, and valuable fisheries produce quantities from there and off Ireland. The species extends further north, however, but with increasing scarcity, off the west coast of Scotland and as far as the Shetlands.

The crawfish is regarded as rare off the east coast of Scotland, and is virtually unknown further south, so that any records from the North Sea are of great interest. The current record of the crawfish adds to a growing list of unusual North Sea crustacean records that have accumulated from the Yorkshire area over the past twenty years or so.

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