Communique 13-14 June 2022

The 12th Crab Working Group meeting was held in Brisbane on 13 and 14 June 2022. The purpose of the meeting was to note the progress of reform implementation to the mud and blue swimmer crab fisheries and update of current research.

Fisheries Queensland provided a general update on the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy (the Strategy) and Working Group expression of Interest (EOI) processes.  Members provided an update on fishing operations in their local areas. Commercial operators noted:

  • Some reluctance to using the commercial fishing app, citing technical issues with the app and difficulties adapting to a new reporting method.
  • Issues raised with inshore net practices, specifically crabs being deliberately destroyed to remove them from nets. This represents unaccounted fishing mortality. The working group noted that this is an offence under fisheries legislation and Fisheries Queensland undertook to raise the matter with the East Coast Inshore and Gulf of Carpentaria working groups.
  • Fishing operations have been impacted by weather, including inability to access fishing areas.
  • Rising ongoing operational costs impacting profitability.

Other issues raised by members for further consideration by Fisheries Queensland:

  • Removal of requirement of flags (for the sand crab fishery)
  • Increasing number of pots on trot lines (for the sand crab fishery)
  • Reviewing retained permitted species– such as octopus, bugs and slipper lobsters
  • Distinguishing between recreational and commercial pots, e.g. through different dimensions
  • Review of the seven day servicing rule, for example, clarifying exceptional circumstances where pots can’t be serviced
  • Lightweight pot removal
  • Review of bycatch mitigation
  • Vessel tracking reliability
  • Clarifying wording of “whole mud crab” for reporting
  • Clarify the original intent of the retained species under 3 C1 rules (i.e. permitted species)

Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol provided a compliance update, and discussed issues observed in the field, including the recent audit in the C1 fishery, bycatch issues, Unregulated sale, Pot clean-ups.

Fisheries Queensland presented the catch and effort data for the crab 2021 season, and the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for the 2022-2023 season. The TACC has not changed for the 2022-2023 season (770 tonnes EC1, 108 tonnes GC1, 263 tonnes BC1). It was noted as quota for 2022-23 will be issued over a full 12 month fishing season rather than 10 months, resulting the unit value will changing. Letters are being issued to authority holders to advise them of the change.

The Harvest Strategy breakout rule 1.7 was discussed and Queensland Fisheries will investigate amending the assessment year from 2023-2024 to 2024-2025 to provide some flexibility given industry consolidation had been delayed following the recent introduction of a quota-managed system.

Agri-science Queensland presented current progress on mud crab research. Research is being undertaken to increase understanding of spatial stock structure of Giant Mud Crabs, development of a monitoring program for Giant Mud Crabs and spawning migration of female Giant Mud Crabs. Working group members were encouraged to promote participation in research activities.

Crab working group members discussed the potential for an experimental trial into the take of female mud crabs limited to the C1 commercial fishers in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The working group discussed options and raised a range of considerations for and against the trial take of female mud crabs. There were concerns this trial was only considered for mud crabs and not blue swimmer crabs. The working group requested operational conditions be developed on this subject and presented at subsequent working group meetings before providing further recommendations.

Fisheries Queensland provided a demonstration of the new Queensland commercial fishing app (QLD eFisher) which fishers can use for reporting. The working group stepped through a workflow for a crab trip and made suggestions for improvement. Feedback was generally positive on both the app and FQ customer support. Working group members are encouraged to promote upcoming Fisheries Queensland training workshops amongst their networks.

The working group noted the recent research on speartooth sharks in the Wenlock and Ducie Rivers. Industry advised that proactive measures had already been introduced by some commercial fishers in this region. The group discussed potential mitigation options to minimize speartooth shark interactions with mud crab pots, and industry members indicated they would like to see closer collaboration between apparatus manufacturers, industry and researchers. The working group noted bycatch may occur in other fisheries in the area and this required further investigation.

The working group noted the update on the blue swimmer and mud crab WTO. Part 13 accreditation remains in place for the blue swimmer crab and mud crab fisheries. Fisheries Queensland advised that following consultation with industry a decision has been made not to reapply for Part 13A, which covers export approvals, at this time.

The working group noted an FRDC grant has been awarded to Agri-Science Queensland to progress research to collate information on escape vents and marine turtle interactions with crab pots (including ghost pots) and consider pot configurations(s) that could contribute to a risk mitigation strategy for marine turtles in the Queensland crab fishery.

In general business, the working group discussed the issues around the sinking of crab pots, incidental catch of mud crab in sand crab apparatus, and the removal of trot lines in Moreton Bay, but did not support progressing these matters for further consideration.

The next meeting of the Crab Working Group will be held in late November 2022.