Lira Spider Crab

Ark of taste
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Centollo o Centolla di Lira

Brachyuran decapod crustacean of the Majidae family (Maja squinado – spider crab). The spider crab is a large crab; its oval, heart-shaped shell has a diameter of between 10 and 20 cm, and it is covered with thorns and protuberances, on which seaweed, sponges etc. are stuck, being used as camouflage; the face is formed by two conic spines; its legs are very long and strong, and the front pair is topped with relatively small chelae. It lives on the sea bottom among seaweed at a maximum depth of 50 meters, and is caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Its meat is highly regarded. It feeds on starfish, seaweed, mollusks, sea urchins and other sea-bottom invertebrates, and can reach a weight over 4 kilos. From a gastronomic point of view, consumers of the Galician spider crab report that it is “incomparable”: its meat texture, concentrated marine flavor, and the quality of its soup are matchless. Spider crab fishing started to be economically important in Lira in the 1940s. Before this time, as for other seafood products, it was only appreciated locally. This product is experiencing continually increasing demand, a sign of its gastronomic recognition. Fishing is seasonal , taking place from the beginning of December to June. Catches are decreasing every year. With the implementation of the Protected Marine Area affecting fishing, the Lira fishermen have a tool to help them manage their activity more sustainably and rationally. They have limited the numbers caught per day and developed a protocol for selecting the best specimens for consumption. There are two fishing systems. The traditional one known as espello-gancho (mirror-hook), is hardly used in Galicia; it can be assumed that it is used almost exclusively by the fishing community of Lira, on Costa da Morte, Province of A Coruña, in Galicia. The mirror is used to watch the sea bottom, and once a spider crab has been detected, the hook is very skilfully used to bring the crab to the surface and check if it meets the criteria for sale; if it does not, the crab is thrown back into the water. Historically, the port of Lira has always been well-known for its gancheiros (hook operators) or espelleiros (mirror operators), real specialists in crab fishing. The most distinctive feature of this type of fishing is its selectivity. The other, most common, method of fishing uses a specific net, known as miño.

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