Crab Changes: Your Questions Answered

We’ve received some great feedback from you about the new crab management changes announced this week, along with a number of questions you’ve had. Here’s answers to some of those questions – don’t hesitate to contact us if there’s anything else you want to know or have any feedback for us.

Q. I fish in the Peel-Harvey region, how’s it going to affect me?
A. The seasonal closure will be extended by a month and will now run from 1 September to 30 November, but with no changes to the bag limit of 10 and boat limit of 20. These changes should ensure the crabs have longer to grow and moult before they are able to be caught. This means there will be more size crabs for once the season starts in the summer, whereas in recent seasons there has been large numbers of crabs caught early in the season that are under the 127mm minimum size limit. We reckon with more protection given for breeding female crabs, we will see more abundant and bigger crabs around in the next two to three years making for a better crabbing experience for everyone.

Q. Why has the Swan now got a special limit of five crabs?
A. Over the last few years there has been an explosion in the popularity in crabbing in the Swan and Canning rivers placing considerable pressure on crab stocks in the system. The introduction of a special five-crab limit for the Swan recognises the trophy nature of the fishery, which includes bigger sized crabs that were typical in this fishery but have been in decline in recent years. The new limit and the introduction of a seasonal closure should ensure bigger, better quality crabs will be ready to crab for when the season opens in the summer. In the next two to three years, these changes should see the re-establishment of the Swan/Canning as a crab fishery famed for its quality sized crabs. The boat limit of 20 still applies, but you will now need four RFBLs (recreational boat fishing licences) to take your boat limit.

Q. Do I now need four RFBLs if I am boat fishing for crabs if we want to take our 20 crab boat limit in the Swan/Canning rivers?
A. Yes – the bag limit is now five crabs per fisher. In order to take a boat limit of 20 crabs, you will need at least four people on board who have a recreational fishing from boat licence. Click on this link on the Fisheries website here http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Fishing-and-Aquaculture/Recreational-Fishing/Recreational-Fishing-Rules/Pages/Bag-And-Size-Limits-Explained.aspx for more information.

Q. Tell me more about this commercial licence buy-back scheme?
A. As part of the package announced by the Minister for Fisheries, and following an agreed proposal to the Minister and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) between us and the commercial sector, 15 oceanic commercial fishing licences in waters from Cockburn Sound to Bunbury will be bought out by the government and permanently closed to commercial fishing. This will result in protection of the female breeding stock underpinning the stocks’ sustainability. This announcement is particularly important for protecting female breeding stock when they leave the estuaries and use the nearshore oceanic areas to spawn each winter. These female crabs traditionally made up a significant proportion of the commercial catch during winter.

Q. Does the spring closure apply to Geographe Bay?
A. No, Geographe Bay will remain open all year-round. The only change in Geographe Bay will be that from 1 December, you will only be able have a maximum of five female crabs within your bag limit of 10 crabs.

Q. Does the closure apply to commercial fishers as well as recreational crabbers?
A. Yes – the three-month spring closure (1 September 1 to 30 November inclusive) applies to both recreational and commercial crab fishing in oceanic and estuarine waters from the Swan/Canning down to just south of Bunbury.

Q. You say Cockburn Sound might be reopening for recreational crabbing. When is this likely to happen?
A. We have long had an interest in reopening Cockburn Sound for recreational crabbing. Now with the buy-back of the commercial crab fishing licences in Cockburn Sound, there is no reason why the Sound shouldn’t reopen to recreational crabbing by next summer.

Blue Swimmer Crab Changes and What They Mean For You

Overview

The new management changes for blue swimmer crabs in Perth and the South West will result in 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 buy-back scheme will ensure more protection for the female crab breeding stock and more crabs 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.
  • Introduction of a three-month seasonal closure – September 1 to November 30 – in all waters from the Swan and Canning Rivers (inclusive) to 15km south of Bunbury.

See our map below to show you what the changes mean for you in your favourite crabbing locations.

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.

Recfishwest 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.