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- Spanner crabs are caught using trap-like tangle nets, known as dillies, deployed over sand. It is a highly targeted fishing method.
- The Queensland Spanner Crab Fishery operates in coastal and offshore waters with the majority of commercial fishing concentrated between the Sunshine Coast, Fraser region and Moreton Bay.
- There are some concerns over the health of the spanner crab population in QLD, which appears to have been overfished in the last decade, according to updated science.
- A recently introduced management strategy containing elements of international best practice is a welcome advance in the fishery’s management and will aim to provide a full picture of the stock, and is likely helping it to rebuild.
- Careful monitoring of the QLD spanner crab will be required in future to avoid a red ranking, to ensure populations are rebuilding strongly.
- The fishing method has a fairly low impact on habitat although they potentially pose an entanglement risk for marine mammals and turtles because the fishery operates in areas that overlap with habitat for a range of threatened and endangered marine wildlife. However the fishing method employed ensures minimal risk.
Spanner crabs have fine, sweet meat well suited to tossing through pasta or making seafood cocktails, salads, or sandwiches. Crabs can be purchased whole (cooked or raw) or as picked and frozen meat. To cook whole crabs, crack any large legs or claws with the back of a knife and then steam, boil or stir-fry. If cooking whole, weigh your crab and cook for 1 minute for every 100g, adding 2 minutes to the total (e.g. 550g + 2 = 7.5 minutes. Alternatively, crabs can be broken into equal sized pieces and dropped into a soup, stew or curry. Crabs are cooked when the shell goes a vivid orange or red colour and meat pulls away from the shell with ease.
- Spanner Crab Fishery (631t in 2021, 611t in 2020)
Spanner crabs are found throughout the Indo-Pacific region in coastal waters to a depth of 70m. On the east coast of Australia, they are distributed from Yeppoon in Queensland to Nowra in New South Wales. They are caught in commercial fisheries in QLD and NSW
There are some concerns over the health of spanner crab populations in QLD. Commercial catch rates have declined over the last decade although depleted stocks now appear to be rebuilding from a dangerous low in 2017. A full stock assessment is not available for this fishery so it cannot be established that stocks have rebuilt to sustainable levels.
Overall declines in the catch rate of spanner crabs are a cause for concern. However, management actions to reduce catch over the last five years, the introduction of an annual fishery survey and the harvest strategy provides confidence that a recent recovery in catch rates indicates stock rebuilding is underway.
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 spanner crab stocks and threatened and endangered species along the Queensland east coast.
Spanner crabs are likely to be important prey for some shark and ray species.
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. If implemented effectively these reforms will likely improve the GoodFish ranking of the fishery in future.