Whilst most people are familiar with delicious Cornish lobster, there is another delicacy even more succulent and luxurious – the British Crawfish or crayfish as its often called. However, there are different types of crayfish which means those unaware of crawfish are missing out!
More expensive than its relative the lobster, British Crawfish doesn’t have the same attention in the UK as it does overseas, despite Brits loving a bit of the high life. This is because it often gets confused with American crayfish, which are much smaller and not as tasty.
Fresh water or American signal crayfish are the ones you mainly find offered in small pots in the supermarkets. Signal crayfish were introduced to UK from America in the 1970s. These have created quite a problem in the UK as they erode riverbeds with their burrowing and pose a grave threat to native freshwater crayfish.
Julian Harvey, Director of W. Harvey & Sons, said:
“Fresh water American signal crayfish are tiny and are not indigenous to our waters. They were brought over for farming but escaped and evolved as they can survive for months out of water. They’ve taken over and have actually killed a lot of the native crayfish.”
The British seawater crawfish is a beautiful spiny crustacean, orange and golden in colour and covered in spines, hence their nickname as the spiny lobster. The claws are smaller and pincer shaped. They are equipped with spiky multi-purpose front legs and huge rough antennae that they use to defend themselves. The average size is 1.2 to 1.5 kilos per crawfish.
The whole Cornish crawfish sold by W. Harvey & Sons are mainly caught by the local netting fleet when they are working deep waters off the Isles of Scilly during the summer and autumn months. Fisherman Andy Stephens has fished in those waters for many years, landing predominantly to W. Harvey & Sons.
Fisherman Andy Stephens added:
“Crawfish are a better eating fish. The meat in the tails is wonderful. Everyone can catch lobsters but not everyone can catch crawfish. The general public seem to think lobsters are the top end of the shellfish market but they’re wrong. It’s a crawfish but they don’t seem to be aware of them or how delicious they are. The Europeans are much more aware and get really excited when they see them in the UK.”
Locally they are also known as ‘squeakers’, thought to be for the noises they make for communication purposes.
Stocks have made a strong comeback in the past ten years with W. Harvey & Sons becoming the primary exporter of Crawfish in the UK, selling whole Cornish Crawfish as well as handpicked meat.
Crawfish are ‘rested’ in Harvey’s sea tanks for at least 48-hours before despatch and are only bought from the South Western Approaches. Normally the smaller the crawfish, the higher the price per kilo, but the taste of the meat makes them worth every penny.