The West Coast Deep Sea Crustacean Managed Fishery targets Crystal (Snow) crabs (Chaceon albus), Giant (King) crabs (Pseudocarcinus gigas) and Champagne (Spiny) crabs (Hypothalassia acerba).

Using baited pots in waters deeper than 150m (and mostly at depths of between 500m – 800m) along the continental shelf of the West Coast and Gascoyne Bioregions, this fishery is quota-based.

The baited pots, or traps, are operated in long-lines which have between 80 and 180 pots attached to a main line marked by a float at each end.

The Department of Fisheries has minimum size limit and specific regulations to protect breeding females. A minimum carapace length of 120 mm applies for the principal target species Crystal Crab, and 92 and 140 mm carapace minimum lengths applying respectively for the lesser targeted species – Champagne and Giant crabs.

The fishery became a fully managed fishery in 2013 at which time licences were unitised, allowing the greater transfer of units between license holders.

Catch of Giant and Champagne crabs was previously retained as ‘by product’ of a permit, but under the new management arrangements they are now unitised as “B” class units which allow these catches to be transferred onto a single license and specifically targeted while still retaining a “B” class quota of 14 tonnes.

Total landings of the three species of deep sea crabs comprises only a small part of the total biomass, and indications are that impact on the food chain is minimal.

Most of the commercial Crystal crab catch is taken in depths of 500m – 800m and geophysical estimates have measured the distributional range of Crystal crabs at about 50,600km. Working on the basis that all this area is equally productive, the catch levels of past seasons equates to about 3kg of crab per square kilometre.

This fishery is based on mobile vessels that employ a skipper and two or three crew. The product is landed live at ports between Carnarvon and Fremantle, generating some additional economic activity and benefits. There were three vessels operating in 2013.

It is planned that the proposed harvest strategy currently before industry will be formally incorporated into the management plan of the fishery. It should be noted that the management plan for the fishery was introduced on 1 January 2013.

In 2015, the fishery entered in the full assessment process for Marine Stewardship Council certification.

Key Species Fished

Champagne (Spiny) Crabs
Crystal (snow) Crabs
Giant (king) Crabs
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