WA: Cockburn Sound crab stocks continue to recover

Continuing improvement in recruitment and stability of crab stocks in Cockburn Sound has led to a further easing in restrictions there, since the crab fishery was reopened two years ago.

Department of Fisheries’ Principal Management Officer (Southern Bioregions) Dr Kim Walshe said recreational fishers would have a longer season and a range of changes to assist commercial fishers would come into force, when the new crab season begins in the Sound in mid-December.

“The decision to close the crab fishery in Cockburn Sound between 2006 and 2009 is paying dividends, with researchers reporting a much improved status for both juvenile and older blue swimmer crabs which allows for the easing of some of the restrictions,” he said.

“We need to remain vigilant to ensure the sustainability of the fishery, but careful management has helped the recovery and the improvement is a heartening bonus for both recreational and commercial fishers.”

For recreational crab fishers there will be a four month increase in the length of the Cockburn Sound season, which will run from 15 December 2011 to 31 August 2012. The State-wide 127mm minimum size limit for blue swimmer crabs and the West Coast Bioregion bag and boat limits continue to apply.

The changes for licensed commercial fishing operators will be:
  • Decreasing the commercial minimum legal size limit for male blue swimmer crabs from 135mm to 130mm; (female size stays at 135mm);
  • A commercial season from 15 December to 15 June (an extra 2.5 months); and
  • Increased time to set and pull crab pots – now 3am to 3pm daily fishing time.
Dr Walshe said that recreational fishing activity for crabs occurred mainly around the fringes of Cockburn Sound, while the commercial operators generally fished in the deeper waters.

“I am pleased that the peak bodies for recreational and commercial fishers are supportive of the changes and that they understand the imperative to continue monitoring the status of crab stocks through Department of Fisheries’ research,” he said.

“The fishery has come a long way since 2006 and the new rules will ensure the rebuilding phase continues. The Department of Fisheries will work with fishers to closely monitor impacts of this season’s new controls and review the suitability of the measures prior to the season for 2012/13.”

More details on crab fishing in WA are available at www.fish.wa.gov.au.