Geoff Simpson has been crabbing in the Sound since 1984 and believes the current season is the worst he has encountered, with a single crab his total catch on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings this week.
Crab stocks have improved since a three-year ban on crabbing was lifted in 2009, but Mr Simpson is concerned over-fishing from commercial vessels may have them on the brink of collapse again.
‘It used to be absolutely magic, you could dive and the crabs would come dancing along the bottom and you’d easily have your bag limit in 20 or 30 minutes,’ he said.
‘It would be nice if a line could be drawn between the BP Refinery and (Woodman Point) Ammunition Jetty to leave the Southern Flats to recreational crabbers.
‘Beyond that is more than enough area for commercial crabbers to get their catch and they have the equipment to crab in deeper water, which we don’t.’
Of further concern to Mr Simpson was the lack of undersized juvenile crabs pulled up in nets.
‘In the past at least I’d pull up little ones and throw them back,’ he said.
‘On Wednesday morning I threw one little one and one female back and that’s the real worry – the little ones aren’t there.’
Department of Fisheries WA management officer Ben Rome confirmed to the Courier that there were 11 licence holders for commercial crabbing in Cockburn Sound but ‘only five or six actively fish’ the area.
Mr Rome said a combination of environmental and fishing pressures could result in shorter crabbing seasons in the future despite management plans and restrictions on all fishers in place.