Exploring a future for a Kimberley crab fishery

The 12th International Conference and Workshop on Lobster (and Crab) Biology was held in Fremantle last month, which saw 189 fisheries scientists, managers, and stakeholders from 18 countries in Fremantle to hear the latest research on lobsters and crabs, as well as the management of commercial and recreational fisheries on ecologically sustainable principles.

The event was been supported by the Western Rock Lobster Council, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).

The event saved some of the best until last, with Dr Danielle Johnston presenting her work on a pilot survey exploring the potential for mud crabs, with a DPIRD team in the Kimberley, and members of the Warrwa community who share the Karmulinunga Reserve area of Derby.

Green and brown mud crabs are a key species of interest to the Warrwa people. The pilot survey in King Sound last October was needed to develop survey methods for examining the relative abundance of mud crabs, as well as their spatial distribution and biology.

Dr Johnston said mangrove creeks, main channels, and mud flats were sampled at 12 sites on both spring and neap tides.

“The total catch was dominated by the brown mud crab species,” she said.

“Catch was highest in the channels and creeks, and in both those habitats male crabs represented 87 per cent of the catch. By comparison catches on mud flats were lower, but with higher numbers of females than males.

“It was great to work with members of the Warrwa community, who assisted our scientists, technical officers, and crew in the King Sound survey,” she said.

The survey provides the foundation for future surveys in other areas of the Kimberley where baseline data on mud crab species distribution and relative abundance will be used to assist DPIRD fisheries managers in appropriate trap allocations and management for developing an Aboriginal Mud Crab Fishery.

Supporting Aboriginal people to realise the economic development potential through commercial fishing rights is a high priority for DPIRD.

You can find out more about WA’s mud crabs, including a fact sheet here.