Return undersize crabs to the water or face fines: Department of Fisheries

Peel Harvey Estuary is well known for its blue swimmer crabs.Stock image.
Peel Harvey Estuary is well known for its blue swimmer crabs.Stock image.

WITH crab fishing increasing in Mandurah, the Department of Fisheries are warning residents about catching undersized crabs.

Fishers are reminded to return any crabs under 127millimetres wide to the water or face fines.

Already 12 fishers this month will face court over crab fishing offences with potential fines of up to $5000 plus an additional mandatory penalty of $50 per undersized or spawner crab.

Two of the prosecutions involve groups taking 150 and 152 undersized crabs,

Across the Peel Harvey Estuary, blue swimmer crabs are easily found but most of them are under legal size at this time of year.

To give the fishery a strong future these young crabs need to grow to at least 127mm carapace width before they are taken.

The minimum size rule was put in place to ensure crab populations remain strong and continue to offer a great fishing opportunity.

Department of Fisheries principal management officer Martin Holtz said measuring caught crabs was vital.

He said fines could be heavy and those who broke the rules could be taken to court for significant offences.

“We will also make use of the high-tier infringements of a $1000 each where required and we have already done that in relation to four matters,’’ he said.

The blue swimmer crab is the most popular species sought by recreational fishers and for some families crabbing has become a tradition over the years, and across the generations.

There are no plans to close Mandurah Estuary to crab fishing in the foreseeable future, however the Department of Fisheries are monitoring the situation.

Blue crabs

Strategic Fisheries Policy manager Nathan Harrison said there had been good levels of stewardship by recreational fishers in the past, especially through recognition that responsible fishing meant allowing crabs to grow to legal size before taking them.

“At this time of year, fishers need to be aware that in many popular crabbing locations fishers will encounter high numbers of undersize crabs that need to be left to moult and grow so they can be fished later, after they have reached legal size,” he said.

Mr Harrison said protecting undersize crabs was an important reason for new regulations that applied to crab fishing.

“There is a requirement for recreational fishers taking crabs by any means, including scoop, hand and drop nets, to release any undersize crab to the water before attempting to catch any further crabs,” he said.

“This is another important reason for fishers to be aware that different minimum sizes apply to different species.

“For blue swimmer crabs, the minimum size limit is 127mm carapace width and for green mud crabs the minimum carapace width is 150mm and 120mm for brown mud crabs.

“The other new regulation to bear in mind is that all raw uncooked crabs must be in whole form, unless they are being prepared for immediate consumption.”

He reminded fishers that Cockburn Sound remained closed to crab fishing to help stocks rebuild.

Call 1800 815 507 to report suspected illegal fishing activity.