Structures on the shore

The legal right of individuals to install ‘structures’ on the shore to provide shelter for peeler and softshell crab and increase the effectiveness of collection is unclear. The right to fish on the foreshore without landowners’ permission includes the right to place fishing gear there. Fishing gear must entrap ‘seafish’, which crab shelters do not – they simply provide habitat. The deposition of these structures may be covered by the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985.

In some estuaries, landowners have removed crab shelters, because they were installed without permission, or have demanded ‘rent’ for installation and operation in specified areas. These actions have ‘solved’ local problems by moving activity to other areas.

Anyone may in theory remove crabs from shelters, unless they have been placed under a private agreement with the landowner, which may give them a legal status. This is however likely to be contended by crab collectors. Furthermore, the legal rights for individuals to remove crabs from structures that are not actually fishing gear, but are licensed to other individuals by the landowner, is a ‘grey area’ and would benefit from judicial review.

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