Reading between lines on proposal to scrap crab ban

Darren Cartwright | Brisbane Times | 23 October 2011

A Queensland government proposal to end a 120-year ban on recreational anglers taking female mud crabs is a vote-fishing exercise, an industry body says.

The Fisheries Minister, Craig Wallace, asked yesterday for feedback from recreational anglers on overturning a harvesting ban on female mud crabs from Queensland waters.

Female mud crabs, known as jennies, have been protected since the 1890s, Mr Wallace said.

''Protection measures have been in place for jennies in Queensland for about 120 years and, while we need to continue to ensure sustainability of female mud crabs, I am interested to know what fishers think about a relaxing of restrictions,'' Mr Wallace said in a statement.

Mr Wallace's announcement caught the Queensland Seafood Industry Association by surprise.

Association spokesman Tony Riesenweber said an industry report into female mudcrab harvesting recommended a detailed study on their numbers before a decision to harvest the species was made.

He said the report was handed to the government last year and was based on a four-day government-backed workshop at Bribie Island in 2009 that included fishing and environment experts from Queensland and the rest of the country.

''There is nothing to justify this feedback,'' Mr Riesenweber said.

''Looking at the management plan in the report given to them in September last year, they were not going to do too much until after the next election.

''So this doesn't make sense to me, and we are a stakeholder and we are not included. This looks like they're looking for votes before the next election.''

He said jennies had trouble breeding once they grew beyond 16 centimetres owing to the difficulty of finding male mudcrabs the same size or larger.

As only males are allowed to be taken, there is a dearth of large ones available to mate and females should be taken to end the disparity in size.

''If you have large female crabs and not large male crabs you put nature out of balance,'' Mr Riesenweber said.

''It's like a flea raping an elephant.''

He said commercial fisherman should be able to harvest female mud crabs if the ban was overturned and there needed to a strict management and compliance guidelines and conditions.

''There should be a trial on a limited basis,'' he said.

Mr Wallace said one consideration was to allow one large female mudcrab per boat, per recreational fishing trip.

Queensland anglers can have their say at by November 30.

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