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Note: Blue swimmer crabs sold with the Marine Stewardship Council blue tick label are caught in the Peel Harvey Estuary, and qualify for a green “Better Choice’ rating under AMCS Criteria.
- Blue swimmer crabs are caught using pots and hoop nets over sandy habitats.
- The Queensland Blue Swimmer Crab Fishery operates in the state’s tidal waters in inshore and offshore areas, with the majority of commercial fishing concentrated between the Sunshine Coast, Fraser region and Moreton Bay.
- A recently-introduced harvest strategy based on international best practice is expected to rebuild the fishery to healthy levels.
- While the fishing methods used are considered low impact on habitats and threatened and endangered marine wildlife, the fishery operates in areas that overlap with the habitat of species like dugongs, turtles and speartooth sharks and there have been reports of entanglements. But is not thought this will have had serious population impacts on these species. The reporting of accidental catches has been inadequate and it is likely under-reporting occured.
- Blue Swimmer Crab Fishery (174t in 2021, 266t in 2020)
Blue swimmer crabs are found within near-shore, marine embayments and estuarine systems throughout some tropical, subtropical and temperate Australia and New Caledonia. Blue Crabs occur in a wide range of algal and seagrass habitats, and on sandy and muddy substrata, from the intertidal zone to a depth of at least 50m. Commercial fisheries operate in QLD, NSW, SA and WA.
Since the last AMCS assessment in 2018, the fishery has undergone a series of welcome reforms as part of the Queensland Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-2027. Its lack of a harvest strategy and breach of a condition relating to data led to the fishery losing its ability to export internationally in 2019. While the harvest strategy now exists, it remains in breach of the data condition at the time of writing.
Bycatch reporting in the fishery has been inadequate, with the abandonment of an independent observer program in 2012. The new harvest strategy will require reliable bycatch reporting.
Marine parks provide significant protection for blue swimmer stocks along the Queensland east coast.
Lost or abandoned pots have the potential to impact broader marine ecosystems by ‘ghost fishing’, which is what happens when lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear continues to catch target and non-target species. There are measures available to fishers to reduce the risk of their pots becoming ghost gear.