2017 Cray Crystal Ball

Imagine a world in which you could predict the future. You might place a bet on the winner of a future AFL premiership, or know exactly which day to go fishing next month. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Image: Puerulus Collector Credit: Matt Watson, Image source: scoopdigital.com.au

Unfortunately, we can’t predict AFL premiers using any science, but for one of WA’s most loved fishing targets, the Western Rock Lobster (or ‘crays’), decades of data has shown that science can predict abundances of crays up to four years in advance! And if that’s not exciting enough, the 2017/18 is predicted to be one of the best years in over a decade!

During Spring and Summer, each year cray larvae known as ‘puerulus’ are pushed inshore by wind and currents where they settle on nearshore reefs.

Research shows that these crays take four years to reach the legal length of 76mm. Fisheries researchers assess the abundance of puerulus across the new moon period each month by monitoring purpose built puerulus collectors at four locations along the West Coast and Abrolhos Islands.

A cray puerulus collector (pictured right), what looks like bottlebrushes or a mop is actually artificial seagrass. Late larval phase crays use the collectors for habitat and provide long-term population/breeding stock information for fishers and fisheries managers.

High settlement has always shown a strong correlation with catches of crays three and four years later and the 2013 settlement numbers (Figure 1 below) were some of the highest in recent times; in fact the highest since the early 2000’s.

 

Figure 1 Western Rock Lobster Puerulus Settlement (Juvenile Lobster Count) – Showing the 2017/18 season should be cracker due to a high Juvenile Count back in 2013 Source: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

What Does This All Mean for My Fishing?

Added to this excellent rate of juvenile settlement, is the fact that numbers of adult crays are also at an extremely high level, due mainly to neither the commercial or recreational fishing sectors catching their annual allocation in recent times – meaning more crays are being left in the water each year!

Reports from divers indicate that crays are already stacked up in fantastic numbers in nearshore reef platforms along the coast. These high abundances will make for excellent fishing experiences over this Summer.

If you are thinking of trying for crays for the first time, there has never been a better opportunity. There’s plenty of information available on our other website www.ilovefishing.com.au 

Image source: Bluewater Freedivers of WA

Divers should do well as soon as the season opens, but the potters will have to be patient as the traditional ‘whites’ run won’t kick off until late November. Once it cranks up though, the fishing will be superb, with many boats traditionally reporting catching their boat limit most days during this migration period.

Recent clarification of diving rules will make for a much more enjoyable fishing experience.  To see what’s changed, click here.

Good luck chasing crays this season, we would love to hear how you go and see a few pics and videos, so feel free to email us on recfish@recfishwest.org.au or jump on our Facebook page and join the discussion.

Stay tuned for our November Broad Cast edition where we’ll take a closer look at the ‘Whites Run’ plus give you some handy tips and tricks on the best way to cook your crays plus much more!

Cray Diving Rules Set To Be Clarified

In July’s edition of Recfishwest’s Broadcast newsletter, we stated our firm belief that people diving for crays must be afforded the same opportunity as those who use pots and be given 5 minutes to sort their catch once safely aboard their boat. Recfishwest wrote to the Minister of Fisheries who subsequently requested Fisheries liaise with Recfishwest to ‘review fishing arrangements prior to the season commencement.’

Recfishwest is continuing to work with Fisheries in an effort to provide fishers with a clear set of rules that allows for the practicalities of diving and address our concerns. All fishers deserve rules that are clear, simple and fair.

Recfishwest’s position has not changed:

“While divers should make all attempts to measure and count lobsters as accurately as possible in the water, common sense allowances must be made given the often challenging conditions associated with diving in WA.

Once aboard the safety of the boat it is only fair and reasonable that divers are provided a 5 minute opportunity to make a secondary check for protected lobster (e.g. undersize, tar spot, setose) or lobsters in excess of the bag limit, and return to the water any lobster that may have inadvertently been caught.” Recfishwest CEO Dr. Andrew Rowland. 

Why does it matter?

The current (recently amended) interpretation of rules for divers are unclear and do not support the best possible safety outcomes or provide for the best possible fishing experiences.

It is important fishing rules balance the need for safe, quality fishing experiences with the appropriate level of compliance and education to support long-term sustainability. Given there are zero sustainability concerns in regards to crays the rules need to focus on optimising fishing experiences and diver safety.

The current interpretation of the rules and the lack of clarity around a 5 minute period places unnecessary pressure to check catches underwater and to spend more time in the water than is otherwise necessary. In the case of free divers this increased time underwater greatly increases the risk of shallow water blackout.

It is also important rules are interpreted in a way that reflects community expectations about how publicly owned aquatic resources are accessed and managed. The rules must be clear, simple, fair and they must provide for the long accepted practice of completing the fishing activity once safely aboard the vessel.

If you’d like to listen to what Recfishwest’s CEO Dr Andrew Rowland had to say on ABC South Coast in  July, 2017, press play below. 

Diving For Rock Lobster – Our Position

In response to discussion on social media relating to the taking of rock lobster by divers, Recfishwest would like to put forward our position on the matter.

Recfishwest believe that people diving for crays must be afforded the same rules as those who use pots and be given a reasonable opportunity of 5 minutes to sort their catch when they return to the boat.

This would allow divers to accurately check for spawning conditions such as fine hairs on setose lobster whilst out of the water.

It is the view of Recfishwest that within the bounds of sustainability and in order to maximise recreational fishing experiences, management arrangements for this recreational-only component of the fishery should have significant input from the users themselves.

We always believed there has to be a better way to resolve this case than through the legal system simply to satisfy the legislative curiosity of a government Department. We’ve been calling on the Division of Fisheries to work with the community to clarify the rules on this matter over the last year.

If the law does not clearly state how you are allowed to fish then it is not a good law and needs to be changed – it’s as simple as that.

Recfishwest has written to Minister Kelly requesting changes to this regulation prior to the start of the 2017/18 Rock Lobster season.

If you’d like to listen to what Recfishwest’s CEO Dr Andrew Rowland had to say on ABC South Coast on July 7, 2017, click the link below.