Skip to main content

The catch characteristics and population structure of the brown crab (Cancer pagurus) fishery in the Isle of Man, Irish Sea

  • Fikret Öndes (a1) (a2), Jack A. Emmerson (a1), Michel J. Kaiser (a1), Lee G. Murray (a1) and Kevin Kennington (a3)...

Brown crab contributes to small-scale fisheries in the Isle of Man and landings (495 t) were worth in excess of £0.5 million in 2012. The present study sought to fill evidence gaps needed to improve the scientific understanding of this fishery. Observer data were collected to examine the spatial and temporal variations in the size distribution and sex ratio of crabs around the Isle of Man. This study also aimed to evaluate the catch characteristics of brown crab using logbook data (2007–2012), observer data (2012–2013) and questionnaire survey data (2013). The sex ratio is highly variable in different areas across seasons and was perhaps indicative of migration patterns in relation to mating. This change was most notable with a strong increase in the proportion of females to the south and west of the Isle of Man in the autumn months. The depth and pot volume were important factors that influenced the catch per unit effort (CPUE). Future survey designs would need to ensure adequate spatial coverage of the east and west coast of the Isle of Man together with a seasonal sampling regime that captures the spatial change in the distribution and abundance of male and female crabs.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: F. Öndes School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5AB, UK email:
Hide All
Addison J.T. and Lovewell S.R.J. (1991) Size composition and pot selectivity in the lobster (Homarus gammarus (L.)) and crab (Cancer pagurus L.) fisheries on the east coast of England. ICES Journal of Marine Science 48, 7990.
Bannister R.C.A. (2009) Future Management of Brown Crab in UK and Ireland. Final Report, 96 pp. Available at (accessed 12 August 2015).
Bannister R.C.A. (2011) Drummond lecture 2011. Securing resources: a scientist's view. Available at (accessed 18 November 2015).
Barne J.H., Robson C.F., Kaznowska S.S., Doody J.P. and Davidson N.C. (1996) Coasts and seas of the United Kingdom. Region 13 Northern Irish Sea: Colwyn Bay to Stranraer, including the Isle of Man. Peterborough, UK: Joint Nature Conservation Committee. Available at (accessed 21 December 2015).
Bell M.C., Addison J.T. and Bannister R.C.A. (2001) Estimating trapping areas from trap-catch data for lobsters and crabs. Marine and Freshwater Research 52, 12331242.
Bell M.C., Eaton D.R., Bannister R.C.A. and Addison J.T. (2003) A mark-recapture approach to estimating population density from continuous trapping data: application to edible crabs, Cancer pagurus, on the east coast of England. Fisheries Research 65, 361378.
Bennett D.B. (1974) The effects of pot immersion time on catches of crabs (Cancer pagurus L.) and lobsters (Homarus gammarus L.). Journal du Conseil/Conseil Permanent International pour l'Exploration de la Mer 35, 332336.
Bennett D.B. (1979) Population assessment of the edible crab fishery off the southwest England. Rapports et Procès-verbaux des Réunions/Conseil Permanent International pour l'Exploration de la Mer 175, 229235.
Bennett D.B. (1995) Factors in the life history of the edible crab (Cancer pagurus L.) that influence modelling and management. ICES Marine Science Symposium 199, 8998.
Bennett D.B. and Brown C. (1983) Crab (Cancer pagurus) migrations in the English channel. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 63, 371398.
Bennett D.B. and Brown C.G. (1979) The problems of pot immersion time in recoding and analysing catch-effort data from a trap fishery. Rapports et procès-verbaux des réunions/Conseil Permanent International pour l'Exploration de la Mer 175, 186189.
Bergmann M., Hinz H., Blyth R.E., Kaiser M.J., Rogers S.I. and Armstrong M. (2004) Using knowledge of fishers and fisheries scientists to identify possible groundfish essential fish habitats. Fisheries Research 66, 373379.
Berkes F., Colding J. and Folke C. (2000) Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management. Ecological Applications 10, 12511262.
Boyle K. and Thompson S. (2012) Bycatch Survey – Isle of Man Queen Scallop Otter Trawl Fishery Summer 2012. Bangor University Fisheries and Conservation Report No. 19. Available at (accessed 22 December 2015).
Briand G., Matulich S.C. and Mittelhammer R.C. (2001) A catch per unit effort-soak time model for the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery, 1991–1997. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 58, 334341.
Brown C.G. (1982) The effect of escape gaps on trap selectivity in the United Kingdom crab (Cancer pagurus L.) and lobster (Homarus gammarus (L.)) fisheries. Journal du Conseil/Conseil Permanent International pour l'Exploration de la Mer 40, 127134.
Brown C.G. and Bennett D.B. (1980) Population and catch structure of the edible crab (Cancer pagurus) in the English Channel. Journal du Conseil/Conseil Permanent International pour l'Exploration de la Mer 39, 88100.
Caddy J.F. (1979) Some considerations underlying definitions of catchability and fishing effort in shellfish fisheries, and their relevance for stock assessment purposes. Report no. 1489, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Available at (accessed 10 November 2015).
Campbell R.A. (2004) CPUE standardisation and the construction of indices of stock abundance in a spatially varying fishery using general linear models. Fisheries Research 70, 209-227.
Chapman C.J. and Smith G.L. (1979) Creel catches of the crab, Cancer pagurus (L.), using different baits. Journal du Conseil/Conseil Permanent International pour l'Exploration de la Mer 38, 226229.
Craven H.R., Brand A.R. and Stewart B.D. (2012) Patterns and impacts of fish bycatch in a scallop dredge fishery. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 23, 152170.
Drinkwater K., Tremblay M. and Comeau M. (2006) The influence of wind and temperature on the catch rate of the American lobster (Homarus americanus) during spring fishing off eastern Canada. Fisheries Oceanography 15, 150165.
Edwards E. (1979) The edible crab and its fishery in British waters. Farnham: Fishing News Books.
Fahy E., Carroll J. and Stokes D. (2002) The inshore pot fishery for brown crab (Cancer pagurus), landing into southeast Ireland: estimate of yield and assessment of status. Irish Fisheries Investigations No. 11. Available at (accessed 9 August 2015).
FAO (2014) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Available at (accessed 22 October 2014).
Fogarty M.J. and Addison J.T. (1997) Modelling capture processes in individual traps: entry, escapement and soak time. ICES Journal of Marine Science 54, 193205.
Fox D. and Starr R. (1996) Comparison of commercial and research catch data. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 53, 26812694.
Green B.S., Gardner C., Hochmuth J.D. and Linnane A. (2014) Environmental effects on fished lobsters and crabs. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 24, 613638.
Hall S.J. (1993) Pit digging by the crab Cancer pagurus: a test for long-term, large-scale effects on infaunal community structure. Journal of Animal Ecology 62, 5966.
Hart P.J.B. (1998) Enlarging the shadow of the future: avoiding conflict and conserving fish off south Devon, UK. In Pitcher T.J., Hart P.J.B. and Pauly D. (eds) Reinventing fisheries management. Amsterdam: Kluwer.
Hilborn R. and Walters C.J. (1992) Quantitative fisheries stock assessment: choice, dynamics and uncertainty. New York, NY: Chapman and Hall.
Hold N., Murray L.G., Pantin J.R., Haig J.A., Hinz H. and Kaiser M.J. (2015) Video capture of crustacean fisheries data as an alternative to on-board observers. ICES Journal of Marine Science 72, 18111821.
Howard A.E. (1982) The distribution and behaviour of ovigerous edible crabs (Cancer pagurus), and consequent sampling bias. Journal du Conseil/Conseil Permanent International pour l'Exploration de la Mer 40, 259261.
Hunter E., Eaton D., Stewart C., Lawler A. and Smith M.T. (2013) Edible crabs ‘Go West’: Migrations and incubation cycle of Cancer pagurus revealed by electronic tags. PLoS ONE 8, 19.
ICES (2005) Report of the study group on the biology and life history of crabs (SGCRAB), 9–11 May 2005, Galway, Ireland. ICES CM 2005/G:10. Available at (accessed 10April 2015).
ICES (2007) Report of the working group on the biology and life history of crabs. ICES CM 2007/LRC. Available at (accessed 12 December 2015).
Jennings S., Alvsvag J., Cotter A., Ehrich S., Greenstreet S., Jarre-Teichmann A., Mergardt N., Rijnsdorp A. and Smedstad O. (1999) Fishing effects in northeast Atlantic shelf seas: patterns in fishing effort diversity and community structure. III. International trawling effort in the North Sea: an analysis of spatial and temporal trends. Fisheries Research 40, 125134.
Karlsson K. and Christiansen M.E. (1996) Occurrence and population composition of the edible crab (Cancer pagurus) on the rocky shores of an islet on the south coast of Norway. Sarsia 81, 307314.
Keltz S. and Bailey N. (2010) Fish and shellfish stocks 2010. Marine Scotland, the Scottish Government. ISSN .
King M. (2007) Fisheries biology, assessment and management. London: Fishing News Books.
Krouse J.S. (1989) Performance and selectivity of trap fisheries for crustaceans. In Caddy J.F. (ed.) Marine invertebrate fisheries: their assessment and management. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, pp. 307327.
Linnane A., McGarvey R., Hoare M. and Hawthorne P. (2013) The importance of conserving recruitment pulses in rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) fisheries where puerulus settlement is low or highly sporadic. Marine Biology Research 9, 97103.
Lordan C., Cuaig M.Ó., Graham N. and Rihan D. (2011) The ups and downs of working with industry to collect fishery-dependent data: the Irish experience. ICES Journal of Marine Science 68, 16701678.
Maunder M.N. and Punt A.E. (2004) Standardizing catch and effort data: a review of recent approaches. Fisheries Research 70, 141159.
McDonald A.D., Kendrick T.H. and Breen P.A. (2001) Empirical weighting of multiple stock-abundance indices for parameter estimation and stock assessment in a multi-zone or multi-species fisheries. ICES Journal of Marine Science 58, 204215.
McLeod K.L. and Leslie H.M. (2009) Ecosystem-based management for the oceans. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Mill A., Dobby H., McLay A. and Mesquita C. (2009) Crab and lobster fisheries in Scotland: an overview and results of stock assessments, 2002–2005. Marine Scotland Science Internal Report 16/09. 71 pp.
Miller R.J. (1979) Saturation of crab traps: reduced entry and escapement. Journal du Conseil/Conseil Permanent International pour l'Exploration de la Mer 38, 338345.
Montgomery S.S. (2005) Effects of trap shape, bait and soak-time on sampling the eastern rock lobster Jasus verreauxi . New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 39, 353363.
Murray L.G. and Seed R. (2010) Determining whether catch per unit effort is a suitable proxy for relative crab abundance. Marine Ecology Progress Series 401, 173182.
Öndes F., Kaiser M.J. and Murray L.G. (2016) Quantification of the indirect effects of scallop dredge fisheries on a brown crab fishery. Marine Environmental Research 119, 136143.
Pawson M.G. (1995) Biogeographical identification of English Channel fish and shellfish stocks. Fisheries Research Technical Report (no. 99). Lowestoft: MAFF Direct Fisheries Research.
Petitgas P., Poulard J.C. and Biseau A. (2003) Comparing commercial and research survey catch per unit of effort: megrim in the Celtic Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science 60, 6676.
Potier M., Petitgas P. and Petit D. (1997) Interaction between fish and fishing vessels in the Javanese purse seine fishery. Aquatic Living Resources 10, 149156.
R Core Team (2016) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Available at
Robertson W.D. (1989) Factors affecting catches of the crab Scylla serrata (Forskal) (Decapoda: Portunidae) in baited traps: soak time, time of day and accessibility of the bait. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 29, 161170.
Shelton R.G.J. and Hall W.B. (1981) A comparison of the efficiency of the Scottish creel and the inkwell pot in the capture of crabs and lobsters. Fisheries Research 1, 4553.
Skajaa K., Fernoe A., Loekkeborg S. and Haugland E.K. (1998) Basic movement pattern and chemooriented search towards baited pots in edible crab (Cancer pagurus L.). Hydrobiologia 371, 143153.
Starr P.J. and Vignaux M. (1997) Comparison of data from voluntary logbook and research catch-sampling programmes in the New Zealand lobster fishery. Marine and Freshwater Research 48, 10751080.
Su N.J., Yeh S.Z., Sun C.L., Punt A.E., Chen Y. and Wang S.P. (2008) Standardizing catch and effort data of the Taiwanese distant-water longline fishery in the western and central Pacific Ocean for bigeye tuna, Thunnus obesus . Fisheries Research 90, 235246.
Tully O., Robinson M., Cosgrove R., O'Keeffe E., Doyle O. and Lehane B. (2006) The brown crab (Cancer pagurus L.) fishery: analysis of the resource in 2004–2005. Fisheries Resource Series, No. 4. 51 pp.
Ungfors A. (2008) Fisheries biology of the edible crab (Cancer pagurus) in the Kattegat and the Skagerrak – implications for sustainable management . PhD thesis. University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Verdoit M., Pelletier D. and Bellail R. (2003) Are commercial logbook and scientific data useful for characterizing the spatial and seasonal distribution of exploited populations? The case of the Celtic Sea whiting. Aquatic Living Resources 16, 467485.
Vigneaux M., Vigneaux G., Lizamore S. and Gresham D. (1998) Fine scale mapping of fish distribution from commercial catch and effort data using maximum entropy tomography. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 55, 12201227.
Whiteley H. (2009) Fisher's knowledge: accuracy and integration into management . MSc thesis. York University, York, UK.
Woll A.K. and Alesund M. (2006) The edible crab: biology grading handling live crabs. Handbook. Møreforsking, Norway.
Woll A.K., van der Meeren G.I. and Fossen I. (2006) Spatial variation in abundance and catch composition of Cancer pagurus in Norwegian waters: biological reasoning and implications for assessment. ICES Journal of Marine Science 63, 421433.
Wood S.N. (2006) Generalized additive models: an introduction with R. Boca Raton, FL: Chapman & Hall/CRC. 410 pp.
Wood S.N. and Augustin N.H. (2002) GAMs with integrated model selection using penalized regression splines and applications to environmental modelling. Ecological Modelling 157, 157177.
Ye Y. and Dennis D. (2009) How reliable are the abundance indices derived from commercial catch–effort standardization? Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 66, 11691178.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
  • ISSN: 0025-3154
  • EISSN: 1469-7769
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-marine-biological-association-of-the-united-kingdom
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Öndes et al supplementary material
Öndes et al supplementary material 1

 Word (227 KB)
227 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 3
Total number of PDF views: 19 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 64 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 5th December 2017 - 17th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.