WA Crystal Crab – A Show and Tell Highlight

The year 11 hospitality students from Ocean Reef High School received quite the surprise when our industry member brought in a beauty Crystal Crab for show and tell earlier this month…

What’s hiding in the box Neil!? Communications Officer Dani educating students about WA’s seafood industry with industry representative Neil Dorrington.

The class were taking part in WAFIC’s Smartfish Education program – which sees a WAFIC and industry representative present on WA’s sustainable seafood industry and career possibilities.

Neil, a licence holder of the West Coast Deep Sea Crustacean Managed Fishery, said to the class that the greatest achievement was the fishery achieving full Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.

“Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification gives the West Coast Deep Sea Crab fishery the highest benchmark for ecologically sustainable fishing.”

“The process took 18-months with the fishery verified by a certified by a third-party.”

Neil explained that the achievement of MSC certification was important to confirm the fishery is environmentally sustainable to seafood consumers and buyers.

“MSC certified fisheries are continually monitored and must complete annual surveillance audits as well as being reassessed every five years.”

“The verification has meant that the Deep Sea Crab is now eligible to carry the MSC blue tick of approval.”

Neil Dorrington holding an MSC certified Crab. Becoming MSC certified means that the crab is eligible to carry the MSC blue tick of approval.

The fishery is allocated 144 tonnes of crystal crab and is strictly regulated – to ensure quality product and sustainability of the species.

There are also a range of other management objectives for the fishery including fishery boundaries and closed areas, limited entry only to fishers who hold a managed fishery licence (MFL) and fishers are only permitted to use a fish / pot trap that comply with restrictions.

“We are also proud to say that the majority of bait is sourced from managed MSC fisheries,” he said.

The students discovered that the fishery, which operates from Carnarvon to Bremer Bay, operates in waters 500-800 metres deep, using traps. Fishing is open all year, however it mainly occurs when weather conditions are typically favourable between January through to June.

An important educational lesson for the class, were the dangers fishers faced out on sea. It was a stark reminder that these producers of fine food face many risks on the job.

“Crew are faced with uncertainty and the forces of mother nature. Although there are safety measures in place to mitigate accidents – they do not completely stop the risk these men and women encounter to put food on the table.”

“Depending on the market weather conditions, fishers for Deep Sea Crab can spend 3 to 4 days at one time on board the deck.”

Before his presentation ended, Neil explained that the majority of the large crustaceans caught are sent to Chinese consumers who have an appetite for the species succulent white flesh, soft shell (no sharp enamel type edges can be sucked and with no hair) and sweet flavour – however there are some domestic sales in Perth restaurants. He said that market demand peaks in February for Chinese New Year.

The MSC Certified Crystal Crab is known for its sweet flavour – a favourite amongst Chinese consumers.

Concluding Neil said to those seeking to enter the hospitality industry that cooking crab is easy and suggested to experiment with flavours.

“Crab is easy to cook and eat. It marries well with a variety of flavours and is often served with chilli and or ginger. Have fun and experiment with ingredients. It isn’t hard to cook with seafood – you just have to practice – and taste test along the way!”

And on that note, Neil picked up his crab, said thank you for the opportunity and encouraged students to learn more about WA’s sustainable seafood industry.