Early Closure of Cockburn Sound Crab Fishery
Recreational fishing for blue swimmer crabs in WA’s Cockburn Sound will end early this year on Wednesday 14 May after concerns about low stock levels. Previously the season was set to close on 15 June 2014. Scientists are not quite sure what has caused the unusually low numbers of crabs and are taking precautionary measures to protect the breeding stocks. Commercial fishers have already done the right thing and implemented their own voluntary closure from 16 April 2014.
The following information was released by the WA Fisheries on 12 May 2014:
The Department of Fisheries is introducing an early end to the current season for the Cockburn Sound crab fishery, to protect blue swimmer crab breeding stocks and the recreational fishing closure will come into force on Wednesday this week (14 May 2014).
Early closure is a precautionary measure and follows a stock assessment of the Sound’s blue
swimmer crab resource, which is accessed by both commercial and recreational crab fishers.
The decision was made after examining catch and survey data collected between December
2013, when the commercial and recreational fisheries opened, and March 2014. The data showed a significant decline in the number of crabs in Cockburn Sound.
South West Bioregions Manager Tim Nicholas said the department had been working closely
with the State’s peak fishing bodies – Recfishwest and the WA Fishing Industry Council – to
assess the health of the blue swimmer crab stock.
“We all agree the research is providing warning signs and that it is time to cease crab fishing for this season, to provide the Cockburn Sound crab stock some respite,” Mr Nicholas said.
“It is not yet known what caused the decline in crab numbers; research scientists believe the
major factors are environmental and biological rather than fishing-related. While we cannot
control the environmental and biological factors, we can take precautions to assist with recovery of the breeding stock by reducing all crab fishing activity in the Sound until we know more.”
Mr Nicholas said commercial fishers had implemented a voluntary closure from 16 April and
recent recreational crab fishing activity had begun to drop off, so imposing the formal closure at this time in the year was not expected to be disruptive to the majority of recreational crab fishers.
“This proactive approach mirrors the department’s successful management measures for blue
swimmer crabs in Cockburn Sound in December 2006, when it was closed to commercial and recreational crab fishing for three years,” he said.
“The department has also managed the protection of breeding stock and recovery of other
fisheries impacted by environmental factors, such as rock lobster; WA’s most valuable fishery.
As a normal part of adaptive fisheries management, we take a responsible approach to what the scientific research shows as well as considering the economic and social implications.”
There will be a review of the Cockburn Sound crab fishery in October, prior to decisions being
made about possible re-opening on 15 December 2014. Information about the closure is
available online at www.fish.wa.gov.au.