Going Rock Pooling in Cornwall - Crabs and More Crabs
Cornwall has been a well enjoyed holiday retreat for decades. From family beach holidays to sunburnt stag weekends out on the razzle in Newquay, Cornwall has it all.
I'm not a geek or tree hugger, and I look reasonably OK in my bikini (even if I do say so myself). Trip Advisor recommends hundreds of Cornish beaches and places of interest, but I would rather be at the side of the beach, exploring the amazing nature that lives on the Cornish shore :)
Rockpooling or Skinny Dipping?
I took my first rock pooling trip of the season this week, and thanks to a really mild winter here in Cornwall (only 5 or 6 frosty nights), the sea has stayed reasonably warm throughout.
My first stop is a local spot near a village called Portreath. After a 30 minute walk over cliff top pathways, I came to my favourite cove for rock pooling. The stones are reasonably seaweed free and last summer I came here a lot as the water is crystal clear blue, and I am quote fond of skinny dipping when I don’t have any onlookers.
I found a pair of Porcelain Crabs in this same cove near the waterside last summer. Porcelain crabs are quite rare here in the UK, the specimen that I found, was about the size of a thumbnail (10-15mm across the shell), with a smaller one, maybe -8-9mm across the shell. This cove is well hidden from the beach and the cliff walk discourages quite a few people to explore this far.
The Edible Crab
Searching for ‘Edible Crabs’ is definitely one of favourite activities, the elusive Cancer Pagarus makes things a bit more of a challenge, and being slightly more selective about its habitat this crab is a great reward to find (without the use of a crab pot). Here in Cornwall there is an active industry and many small communities that have been built and have lived around crab fishing for decades. It is only legal to take an edible crab to eat if it measures 100mm across the width of the shell.
Edible crab is absolutely divine to eat, I enjoy it more than the taste of Lobster, but I always keep it mind that collecting crab comes with the responsibility to resist taking immature crabs, or female crabs with eggs.
The edible crab is found further down the shoreline, under larger rocks, which are semi submerged to slightly submerged. A bit of weed hanging down from established ‘rock hideouts’ are a good sign of the Edible Crabs usual haunts.
You may need to take a bit of muscle with you, to lift the larger stones, and maybe take protective gloves. Gloves will protect you from barnacle cuts on your hands, and will also buffer a nasty pinch from a large crab. There is nothing more satisfying than turning a boulder and seeing the orange-brown ‘pie-crust’ shell of a large edible, but they have extremely big claws and could crack a finger bone with ease.
Rock pooling Do’s and Don't’s
- Replace rocks to where you found them, it is extremely important not to leave stones turned upside down, as micro-organisms and their eggs that are exposed will due quite quickly. Also creatures hiding beneath the rock will have been disturbed and will want to settle back into their homes.
- Explore different regions of a rock pool, there are deeper areas, and also rocks worth checking that are only slightly submerged. Also pebbles, sand and weed will be home to different creatures.
- Check the underside of the rock for molluscs, starfish and other ‘sticky’ creatures.
- Wear good footwear with good grips, I like to think myself as being as sure-footed as mountain goat, but I have taken a few tumbles into rock pools from slipping.
- Watch your fingers
- Stand on any green surface, its going to be slippery. When travelling between rock pools I try to stand only on dry rocks (without weed) or rocks with a covering of small barnacles (which are rough and safe to stand on).
- Don’t take creatures away from the rock pool in a bucket. No matter how good at looking after things you think you are, a bucket of water heats up quickly. Sea creatures need a flow of oxygenated water and also microscopic food which flows in on the tide to survive. They will be OK in a bucket for a short period, but you must take care to release them back in the same place.
- Don’t wear a tiny bikini in a rock pool, I have learned the hard way and have suffered from grazed legs, falls on my bottom on rough barnacle covered boulders, and unwanted critters and seaweed near personal areas of my body (too close for comfort).
More useful rockpooling guides
- Marine Conservation Society
Marine Conservation Society: UK Charity protecting our seas, shores and wildlife
- BBC - Nature UK: Rockpooling, a great autumn activity
Rockpooling's a great autumn activity for all the family. Here's a few tips and we'd love to hear your advice too.
- BBC Nature - Rockpools videos, news and facts
Rockpools are particularly challenging and harsh environments.