Blue Swimmer Crab Changes and What it Means For You

Overview

  • More protection for the female crab breeding stock will ensure bigger, better crabs in the near future.
  • Permanent removal of commercial fishing licences in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds and from Mandurah to Bunbury through a voluntary buyback scheme will ensure more protection for the female crab breeding stock and more and bigger crabs to fish for.
  • The buy-back of commercial fishing licences in Cockburn Sound opens the real possibility for recreational crab fishing in the Sound.
  • Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) proposed blanket five-month closure and 11pm to 4am night fishing curfew dropped.

Cockburn Sound

  • The buy-back of commercial fishing licences in Cockburn Sound opens the real possibility for recreational crab fishing in the Sound by next year.
Blue swimmer crabbing is closed from 1 September and 30 November within this area

Swan/Canning River

  • Bag limit of five crabs, boat limit stays the same at 20.
  • Introduction of a seasonal closure –September 1st to November 30th.

Peel/Harvey Estuary

  • Bag limit of 10 crabs and boat limit of 20 stays the same.
  • Seasonal closure extended by a month now running from September 1st to November 30th
  • The closure extension will mean more quality crabs to go at in December once they’ve had a chance to complete their spring moults.

Geographe Bay

  • Bag limit stays the same at 10 crabs but now a maximum of five females, boat limit stays the same and still no seasonal closure.
  • Proposed three-month closure dropped.
  • Introduction of a female crab limit will offer more protection to the female crab breeding stock resulting in more, bigger crabs and better crabbing in the near future.

Click here to read Recfishwest’s Media Release.

Click here to read Recfishwest’s supporting news article.

A Step Towards Bigger, Better Crabs in Perth and the South West

Recfishwest joined the Minister for Fisheries Dave Kelly in Mandurah and colleagues from the commercial fishing sector to announce a series of changes that represent a watershed moment in the management of the crab fisheries in Perth and the South West.

The significant reform will offer much more protection for the female crab breeding stock and secure a more resilient recreational crab fishery with more, bigger crabs and a better crabbing experience for everyone.

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT THE NEW CHANGES TO THE RULES WILL MEAN FOR YOU

Through some constructive negotiations with the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC), the Southern Seafood Producers WA (SSPWA), we reached a point of agreement that has secured the best outcome for recreational fishers given the very real sustainability issues the fishery was facing.

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT THE MINISTER HAD TO SAY

CLICK HERE TO READ RECFISHWEST’S MEDIA RELEASE

Taking on board the views of nearly 4,000 recreational fishers who responded to our survey on the initial discussion paper, we put forward 10 proposed management changes to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) in November last year.

The package announced by the Minister today met eight out of 10 of our recommendations – a great result, particularly in the context of what had been proposed.

A stark alternative

But before we got there, we were potentially looking down the barrel of a broad-scale five month closure from the Swan/Canning to Geographe Bay (inclusive) and a night curfew on crab fishing between 11pm and 4am.

This blunt proposal by DPIRD galvanized ourselves, WAFIC and the SSPWA to sit down and hammer out a joint response which would ensure we could get a sensible, better outcome by working together.

Had we ended up in a Mexican stand-off with the commercial sector and DPIRD, we could have seen the process painfully drag out – possibly for years – which would have been in no one’s interests and yet again delayed vital management intervention.

Instead, we arrived at the following positive outcomes for the recreational fishing community:

The sustainability of the crabs must come first.
  • A buy-back of commercial fishing licences from oceanic crab fisheries in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds and from Mandurah to Bunbury, leading to their permanent closure and with an indication from the Minister that this will happen swiftly as a matter of priority.
  • The buy-back opens the door to the very real possibility of Cockburn Sound opening for recreational crab fishing in the near future.
  • A mixture of management measures introduced that will, within near future, result in better crabbing and bigger crabs and help to establish the Swan/Canning system as a trophy crab fishery right on Perth’s doorstep.
  • The blunt flat five-month closure across the resource and a night-time crab fishing curfew was averted avoiding impact on local businesses in Geographe Bay and Mandurah that benefit from crab fishers flocking to town. Instead, a three-month September to November closure has been introduced, excluding Geographe Bay which will remain open all year-round.
  • In Geographe Bay, a new limit of five female crabs within the bag limit of ten will ensure more female crabs remain in the system leading to bigger crabs and better crabbing in the near future.

Protecting a prized part of the WA lifestyle

How good is this? Isn’t this worth protecting?

Increasing pressure on Perth and South West crab stocks has taken its toll in recent years leading to an ongoing decline in the number of size crabs.

The writing has clearly been on the wall for some time and those of you who completed our survey on the future of the resource also backed our message loud and clear: the sustainability of the crabs must come first.

CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOLLOWING YOUR RESPONSES TO OUR SURVEY

Negotiating the best outcome for our community
We will always do whatever it takes to ensure the best outcome for our members and our community. Delivering on that commitment was/is paramount for us for such an iconic fishery as this. That meant doing the wise and mature thing and working with our colleagues in the commercial sector to achieve the best outcome.

In the complex world of fisheries management, with the often fiercely competing interests of different sectors, being able to negotiate an outcome like this was a watershed moment.

Recfishwet is looking forward to seeing the flow-on effects of these management changes in the near future, resulting in many more people across the board enjoying better crabbing and catching bigger, better quality crabs.

Slow Start to South West Crabbing Season Predicted

A lengthy winter and lower than average water temperature is predicted to cause a slow start to Crabbing this season. The iconic Mandurah crab fishery opened on November 1st, however fishers are not expected to encounter good numbers of legal sized crabs for at least another month.

It is important to recognise that many crabs will still currently be undersize, and that your crabbing efforts may be better spent later in the season. Crabs grow rapidly as water temperatures warm up in late December and January and this is considered the best time to fish for crabs. Whenever you go crabbing remember to always carry a crab gauge and measure the crabs correctly from point to point on the carapace (body) to ensure they are larger than the minimum legal size of 127mm.

Be sure to abide by the personal bag limit of 10 and boat limit of 20 crabs, and a maximum of 10 pots is allowed per person/boat. A Recreational Boat Fishing Licence is required if taking or transporting crabs by boat.

New rules regarding the immediate release of protected crabs are now in effect, meaning that undersize and berried (egg-carrying) crabs must be released as soon as they are caught before resuming fishing. It is also important to know that uncooked crabs MUST be maintained whole and not dissected or altered in any form prior to preparation for consumption.

Lastly, it is always important to be mindful in your fishing activities and respect the environment in which you are accessing. The surrounding environment adjacent to crab habitat is also important for a host of other fish, invertebrate and bird species and there are many environmental groups actively working at restoring much of the riparian vegetation and coastal plants that help to maintain the health and function of our estuaries.

Groups like the Peel Harvey Catchment Council are actively involved in some of these efforts and we urge fishers to think before you step, and use designated access points to your fishing grounds in order to preserve the delicate plants that are invaluable to improving the fishing environment.