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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Tray of commercially caught blue swimmer crabs
​It’s important we look at all the factors and environmental impacts in the Shark Bay crab fishery to provide information for the management of this valuable resource.
Monday 14 August 2017

Crabs beat heatwave and cyclone blues

​WA’s commercial Shark Bay blue swimmer crab fishery that was devastated by the 2010/11 marine heatwave, two major cyclones and flooding events is recovering after a strategic rebuild and is now enjoying good catch levels.

Prior to the marine heatwave, when temperatures reached four to five degrees Celsius above average, the Shark Bay fishery was Australia’s single highest producing fishery for blue swimmer crabs.

The heatwave caused a significant recruitment failure and for the crab stock to rebuild, commercial crab fishing ceased in Shark Bay in April 2012 on a voluntary, industry-agreed basis.

Stock monitoring of the fishery occurs three times a year at key life history stages of the crab and is based on trawl sampling throughout key fishing grounds in Shark Bay.

Initial results gave confidence for commercial fishing to resume in November 2013 with a precautionary total allowable commercial catch of 400 tonnes set for the 2013/14 season, under a new quota management system.

Over the next couple of seasons the quota was monitored and adjusted to allow greater stock rebuilding.

By February 2017, the commercial catch rates were back to historical levels with the June 2017 survey results showing the crab spawning stock catch rate was at its best since 2012 – approaching ten times the catch rate when the fishery was closed.

Last modified: 22/08/2017 11:14 AM

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