Communique 4 February 2022

Role of the spanner crab working group: is to provide advice on the operational and ecological aspects of managing Queensland’s spanner crab fishery in line with the harvest strategy and the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy.

The ninth Spanner Crab Working Group meeting was held via teleconference on 4 February 2022. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss options and recommend a methodology for estimating the missing 2020 fishery independent survey (FIS) data.

Fisheries Queensland presented two possible options, mean and proportional, for the 2020 FIS data that is not available due to COVID-19 restrictions preventing the FIS from being undertaken. The first option uses the mean (i.e. average) of the nearest FIS data values from the year before (2019) and the year after (2021). This option maintains fishery independence and does not incorporate any commercial fishery data. The second option is based on the relation between commercial and the available FIS catch rates. The relationship is proportional based on the mean log differences and does not maintain fishery independence as commercial data is used.

Members discussed the pros and cons of the two options. The benefit of the mean option is that it is independent to the commercial catch data, however it would not capture any trends observed in the 2020 commercial catch. The benefit of the proportional option is that it incorporates the commercial catch trend observed in 2020 but is no longer an independent source of data. The proportional option retrospectively has been a closer fit in most instances to the FIS data. Minimal difference was observed in the outcome between methods when two year averages were calculated.

Members recommended the proportional method for calculating the unavailable 2020 FIS data, however the working group would like to review this method if FIS data is unavailable again in future. Members have requested further analysis of the commercial catch data in the time periods and areas where FIS surveys are undertaken.

Industry members provided an update on fishing operations. Poor weather has been impacting on the number of available days to conduct fishing trips. Catch rates have been variable along the coast with average catches. Above average catches were observed in some areas prior to the December 2021 closure.

Further independent research is ongoing into growth rates of spanner crab by Dr. Ian Brown who is interested in timing and occurrence of berried, very small and soft/weak crabs. Further information will be circulated to industry in the near future.

The working group agreed that the next meeting should occur in March 2022 with a focus on reviewing the total allowable catch (TAC) ahead of the 2022-23 fishing season.

The Spanner Crab Working Group meeting participants were: Chair (John Dexter), commercial sector (Peter Jones, Sampie Nieuwoudt, Richard Swanson, Les Apps), research (Dr. Ian Brown), Fisheries Queensland (Tony Ham, Samantha Miller, Nancy Trieu, Michael O’Neill, Russell Overton), New South Wales Fisheries (Daniel Johnson).

Apologies: Vanessa Hughes, Allen Filip Jason Simpson, Richard Hamilton and Adrian Gutteridge.