Tourism operators back bigger crab size limits

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
Email Jackson Lavell-Lee
Siesta Park Director Greg Tickle and fishing enthusiast Graham Morris say that winter is the best season for crabbing in the Geographe area. Inset: Most male crabs caught in summer are too small.
Camera IconSiesta Park Director Greg Tickle and fishing enthusiast Graham Morris say that winter is the best season for crabbing in the Geographe area. Inset: Most male crabs caught in summer are too small. Credit: Busselton-Dunsborough Times, Jackson Lavell-Lee

Bigger sizing limits for recreational crabbing catches have been endorsed by local tourism operators amid a bid to sustain the population of blue swimmer crabs.

The Times reported on November 9 that local fisherman had urged the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development — Fisheries to avoid a blanket ban on Geographe Bay’s winter crabbing season due to its “unique fishing experience”.

Siesta Park director Greg Tickle said a proposed ban on winter crabbing would hurt his business and the extended tourism market.

“If they want to protect spawning females then I’ll take the hit on sizing, they’re 127mm across the shell at the moment, I wouldn’t mind 130mm,” he said.

Other proposed management actions include a male- only method, a smaller catch limit or a night-time curfew.

Ninety per cent of WA’s recreational crabbing occurs in the Peel and South West regions.

Fisheries said after weighing the options they identified broad-scale seasonal closures (May to December) as the most balanced management option.

“A closure from May-December would take away the most important traditional crabbing time enjoyed by locals and visitors to Geographe Bay,” Mr Tickle said

“We can’t have knee-jerk reactions that will cost businesses and cause the dissatisfaction of tourists.”

A survey recently conducted by Recfishwest said the impact on tourism associated with blue swimmer crabs should be considered when developing management actions.

However, there is a strong desire from Fisheries for management to be consistent across the lower west coast.

Recfishwest chief executive Andrew Rowland said that Geographe Bay was “unique” where the best crabbing occurred in spring.

“We support different management arrangements that support the best crab fishing experience even if it means different rules in different areas,” he said.

Naturaliste Game and Sport Fishing Club member Graham Morris said Geographe Bay was the end of the line for crab migration, therefore populations varied.

“There’s not enough policing of people who catch small crabs, you can’t keep them if you want to be crabbing in future years,” he said.

The summer season produces many spawning female crabs and small male crabs in Geographe Bay, while bigger males are more popular in the Peel region.

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