Moves Afoot to Change the Way WA Crayfish are Managed

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly recently made an announcement about changes to the way crayfish stocks are to be managed in WA.

Below is a media statement released by Recfishwest on the 11th of December, as well as updated information published on the 19th of December? Please be sure to read information from across the timeline to ensure you are kept up to date on the issue.

Update: 19th December 2018:

Whilst the Ministers announcement relates to the commercial quota available for harvest, Recfishwest will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that recreational fishing experiences are not impacted by a reduction in nearshore abundances of crays.

Updates from the Western Rock Lobster Council can be found here.

 

 

MEDIA STATEMENT – December 10 2018.

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly made an announcement on Saturday about changes to the way crayfish stocks are to be managed in WA.

In a statement, the Minister said the Government and the industry’s peak body, Western Rock Lobster (Council), have agreed on the broad terms of a development package that will “grow the industry to provide more benefits to the Western Australian community”.

The Minister said the Government is looking to change current management to provide the state with the best return from the community owned Western Rock Lobster resource.  In doing so, the Government is considering a plan to increase the annual catch of crayfish by 1,700 tonnes over the next five years to improve revenue to the State Government and increase local lobster supplies.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said high numbers of crayfish close to shore in the last few years have significantly increased the catchability for recreational fishers which has lead to record high participation rates.

“In recent years fishing experiences for recreational fishers had been boosted and participation has grown to almost 60,000 licence holders thanks to high abundances of crayfish on inshore reefs,” Dr Rowland said.

While details of any future management changes are yet to be decided, Dr Rowland believes that any new arrangements must ensure people have the best chance to catch crays whenever they go fishing.

“Increasing commercial exploitation of inshore stocks at popular fishing areas must be avoided to protect the current high-quality fishing the community is experiencing.”

“Recfishwest believes this inshore portion of the stock must be carefully managed and protected so WA locals who enjoy fishing with the friends and family can continue to enjoy good catches.”

“There is much more to fisheries management than simply the sustainable exploitation of a resource for economic gain, it’s also about managing the stock to ensure high abundance in the right areas.”

“Good management needs to protect rec fishing opportunities so the WA public can continue to enjoy catching their own fresh seafood,” he said.

Despite the recreational fishing sector not being included in any discussions to date regarding future plans, the Minister has assured Recfishwest that a process will be put in place so the views of the recreational fishers can be considered.

“While the current situation creates more questions than answers, Recfishwest will now be involved in discussions going forward, and will continue to provide the rec fishing community with updates.” Dr Rowland said.

ENDS

Media Contact: Matt Gillett, 9246 3366 or matt@recfishwest.org.au

Fact File:

  • Close to 60,000 recreational rock lobster licence are issued in WA each year
  • Every year the government receives approximately $2 million from recreational Rock Lobster licence fees
  • The recreational fishing sector is allocated 5% of the state’s Rock Lobster resource.
  • The Minister has confirmed there will be no changes to recreational fishing rules as part of this most recent announcement.
  • More information on this issue can be found on the links below:
    • To read the Ministers 8 December media statement click Here
    • To read the Western Rock Lobster Councils media statement click Here
    • To read WAFIC’s media statement click Here

 

 

The Annual ‘Whites Run’ – Time to get Fishing!

There’s a handful of events in society that each year create a state of extreme excitement. For some, it’s Boxing Day sales, the Melbourne Cup or the AFL Grand Final, but for about 55,000 West Aussie fishers, it’s the annual migration of Western Rock Lobster (crays), known locally as the ‘whites run’.

It’s this time in late November and early December that crays begin their annual migration to offshore waters providing excellent fishing in nearshore areas.

In this article, we will provide you with some answers to commonly asked questions as well and help you head in the right direction to catch some of these tasty morsels.

Why are they called ‘white’ crays?
A ‘white’ cray is a colloquial term applied to crays that are freshly moulted and have a soft, pale shell. This is in comparison to pre-moulted crays which have a hard, red shell. The crays are exactly the same but are at different stages of their life cycle.

Where do they ‘run’ to?
Juvenile crays settle along seagrass beds and rocky habitat close to shore. Once they reach sexual maturity at about 4 years, they migrate en masse from this habitat to offshore reef platforms.

When does the ‘run’ happen?
Whilst there are multiple factors that influence exactly when the migration begins, it is generally understood that the migration will start towards the end of November and will reach full swing by the beginning of December. Good catches usually continue until about Christmas time. Water temperature is thought to be the biggest influence on when the migration begins. Cooler water temps tend to delay the start of the migration.

How do I go about catching them?

The white’s run is when potters do best. Diving catches tend to be more consistent than potting catches across the summer, but the period from late November to Christmas is when dropping pots come into its own.

As crays are on the move from under their usual nearshore reef ledges, they will seek food and shelter along their migration path. A cray pot provides both of these needs. Pots should be set on the sand on the western side of natural habitats such as reef or weed. Keep dropping pots further out to sea as the migration continues, and check your pots every day during this period.

Crays can travel many kilometres a day so don’t be afraid to spread your pots out to get an idea of where good numbers of crays are each day. Crays love fresh bait, so don’t let your bait get rotten in the basket, change it every few days at the very least.

Perhaps the most important aspect to remember when dropping pots is to make them heavy. Any movement on the bottom will result in no crays the next morning, so make sure you use plenty of weight.

This season is forecast to be excellent, with numbers of crays inshore at record levels. We expect the whites run to be excellent again and wish all fishers the best of luck chasing a feed for Christmas.

 

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!