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Lone pensioner keeps dog sled crabbing tradition alive

DDP/The Local · 13 Aug 2010, 14:24

Published: 13 Aug 2010 14:24 GMT+02:00

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Each day 63-year-old Erhard Djuren harnesses his three mixed-breed dogs Pepo, Felix and Lisa to his sled and they set off to the mudflats at low tide with a chorus of barks.

“It’s really fun for them,” he says.

Water and mud spray in wide arcs behind the sled as they travel the two kilometres to their fish traps off the coast of Wremen, a tiny Lower Saxony fishing village along the Wattenmeer, or Wadden Sea.

The tidal mudflats off of the North Sea are feeding grounds to millions of migratory birds and a unique ecosystem honoured as a world natural heritage site by UNESCO in 2009.

The trip takes the trio of dogs just 10 minutes, and Djuren checks his 30 round baskets, which lay aground at low tide.

See photos of Djuren at work with his dogs.

Click here for a photo gallery of the Wattenmeer.

High season for crabbing lies between September and October, he says, but he still enjoys going out each day. Currently there’s not much: a few crabs, smelt, and sometimes a cod or an eel.

Unless there’s a big storm, he takes the trip each day from May to December, sometimes twice a day, in accordance with the tides.

“I do it for the fun of it,” he says. “And to hold on to the old tradition.”

He’s the last of the Wattenmeer crabbers – even in the 1950s only 10 lived in the village.

As a boy Djuren loved to join them on the daily journey to their traps, but he ended up with a profession on dry land as a farmer. After he retired 10 years ago he rented out his farm and returned to pursue his crabbing passion, though.

According to Dirk Sander, head of the Weser-Ems fishing association, Djuren is probably the only such fisherman in Europe.

Story continues below…

“It’s not worth it anymore,” he explained.

While there’s not much to sell, when Djuren returns home there’s always a hot kettle on the stove to cook the few crabs that come in.

“My wife shells them herself and the neighbours come over,” Djuren says.

He’ll continue as long as he can, but believes there will be no one to follow in his footsteps, relegating the tradition to the local museum.

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DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:07 August 13, 2010 by 9900lawre
Now here's someone pre-empting the rising retirement age and doing something about it. Pride oozes from this fellow.

Well done sir!
02:53 August 15, 2010 by wenddiver
I take my nieces crabbing in Florida, we take a large nail and tie some old chicken with a bone in it to a string and throw it off the side of the dock. Then we pull it up very caefully so you don't disturb the crab, smoth and quick! When it gets near the surface we grab them with a hand net like you use for fishing. It is tons of fun. We ussually get a bushel or two of Gulf Blue Crabs for little money or effort, which we cook with Zattaran's Cajun Crab boil. Really great eating.
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