A CAMPAIGN has started to protect the crawfish that have returned to the reefs on Cornish shores.

Crawfish, or spiny lobsters, had been overfished in the 70s and 80s by fishermen and divers. Cornwall Wildlife Trust have made it their aim that the same doesn’t happen again.

Crawfish can live up to 60 years and are very similar to the common lobster, with long antennae and a big tail. They get caught in traps when looking for food along the sea bed.

The nationwide campaign has been labelled ‘#HandsOffOurCrawfish’. The Trust hopes to use education to deter people from catching the crawfish, with a view to ensuring sustainable fisheries for them in the future.

Dive schools, dive boats and dive clubs will be provided with stickers saying ‘no crawfish on this boat’ as the Trust look to aid the future of these marine creatures.

Marine awareness officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Matt Slater, spoke about his first encounter with Crawfish: “We dropped down to the seabed on a rocky reef off Newquay that I have dived many times over the years. Where previously I had never seen any crawfish, on this dive within just a few minutes we found 18 beautiful crawfish.

“Through our Seasearch citizen science project our volunteer divers have recorded huge numbers of crawfish over the past few years in Cornish waters. And we now carry out repeat survey dives for this species at several locations in Cornwall.

“Divers all around the south west are reporting crawfish at their favourite dive sites and everyone is really pleased to see them back. However, there is a strong concern from many that we must ensure that they are back for good and that fisheries for this species are carried out at sustainable levels to ensure that history does not repeat itself and they become over fished again.

“The majority of recreational divers appreciate all the marine creatures they encounter and very few collect marine life to eat, preferring to enjoy peaceful encounters and underwater photography. Having said this, many popular dive sites appear to have groups of resident crawfish. If even small numbers of divers start collecting them, it would not take long for them to disappear once again.

“We already have the support of many of Cornwall’s dive operators and dive schools, but we would ask everyone to get involved and to pledge not to take crawfish on their dives – that’s why we started the ‘Hands Off Our Crawfish’ campaign.”

Dive Newquay were the first company to sign up to the campaign. Paddy Maher of Dive Newquay said: “Since we first set up our dive company five years ago we have always made our customers return any collected crawfish back into the sea. No one wants to see these creatures wiped out again as they were in the 1980s. It makes absolute sense to educate divers and to ask people to think more about their impacts on the underwater world.”