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MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR THE BLUE CRAB FISHERY

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					   SOUTH AUSTRALIAN FISHERIES
      MANAGEMENT SERIES

                       NO.




MANAGEMENT PLAN
     FOR THE
BLUE CRAB FISHERY




                  prepared by the
  Blue Crab Fishery Management Committee
                 in association with
  Primary Industries and Resources South Australia




                                                     i
1   Foreword....................................................................................................... 3
2   Management Context.................................................................................... 4
  The Fishery....................................................................................................... 4
  Relevant Management Legislation ................................................................... 5
  Fisheries Management Committees (FMC's).................................................... 5
  Development of Management Plans under the Fisheries Act ........................... 6
  Objectives......................................................................................................... 6
  Strategies ......................................................................................................... 8
    Sustainability ................................................................................................. 8
    Allocation ....................................................................................................... 8
    Economic Efficiency....................................................................................... 8
    Access ........................................................................................................... 9
    Conservation ................................................................................................. 9
    Social............................................................................................................. 9
3 Management Issues.................................................................................... 10
  History of Management .................................................................................. 10
  The Resource ................................................................................................. 10
     Biological & Ecological ............................................................................... 10
     Distribution ................................................................................................. 10
     Stock structure ........................................................................................... 11
     Feeding ecology......................................................................................... 11
     Reproductive cycle..................................................................................... 11
     Current Monitoring ..................................................................................... 12
  Access ............................................................................................................ 14
     Commercial Access .................................................................................... 14
     Commercial Pot Fishery............................................................................. 15
     Commercial Marine Scale Fishery ............................................................. 16
  Harvesting Methods........................................................................................ 16
  Regulation of commercial fishing.................................................................... 17
     Recreational Access .................................................................................. 18
  Products ......................................................................................................... 19
  Markets........................................................................................................... 20
  Tourism........................................................................................................... 20
  Conservation .................................................................................................. 20
  Aquatic Reserves ........................................................................................... 21
  Other Fisheries ............................................................................................... 21
  Social Issues .................................................................................................. 21
4 Management Strategies for Achieving Objectives......................................... 22

       Appendix I - History of Management .......................................................... 27
       Appendix II - Membership of the BCFMC................................................... 32
       Appendix III - Management ....................................................................... 33
       Appendix IV – References ……………………………………………………. 34


2
                                1.     Foreword

This management plan has been developed by the Blue Crab Fishery
Management Committee (BCFMC) to manage the blue crab resources over
which the Committee has an advisory role. It covers the period 1st January 2000
to 31st December 2004.

The overriding aim of the BCFMC is to provide ecologically responsible
management advice to the Minister for Primary Industries and Resources on
fishing the blue crab resource of South Australia, in a way which provides an
appropriate income and asset base to commercial fishers and an enjoyable past-
time for recreational fishers. The benefits to the South Australian community of
our success should be considerable.

This is the first such plan to be developed by the BCFMC. Accordingly it is likely
that the plan will require amendments over its 5 year life – perhaps even some
major modifications. This is provided for in the plan, and should in no sense be
viewed as a “failure” of the original plan. All industries evolve, and the blue crab
industry – as a relatively young and undeveloped industry – is likely to evolve
more quickly than most. I hope that those involved in future reviews of this plan
bring as much enthusiasm and knowledge to their task as those who participated
in developing this original document.




Alice McCleary
Chairman
Blue Crab Fishery Management Committee




                                                                                  3
                        2.       Management Context
The Fishery

The Commercial blue crab fishery includes all the waters east of 135°E. Within the
area of the fishery there are two fishing zones. Spencer Gulf fishing zone means
all waters of Spencer Gulf north of latitude 34°26.75'S and Gulf St Vincent fishing
zone means all waters of Gulf St. Vincent north of latitude 35°03.2'S (figure 1).
Four significant recreational crabbing areas Are excluded from the commercial
fishing zones.

                        Figure 1: Blue Crab fishery zones



                  BLUE CRAB COMMERCIAL FISHING
                             ZONES



                         Streaky Bay
                                                                   Yatala
                                                                   Harbour




                                              Cowell

                                                               Tickera
                                                  Spencer
                                                    Gulf


                                                                Gulf St
                                                                          Barker
                                                                Vincent   Inlet




            Portunus pelagicus




4
The South Australian blue crab fishery is made up of three major stakeholder
groups:
         • The Commercial Pot Fishery
         • The Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery
         • The Recreational Fishery

Commercial fishery licence holders in the blue crab fishery may engage in the
taking of blue crabs (Portunus pelagicus) within the waters of Spencer Gulf or Gulf
St Vincent. Commercial licence holders are also permitted to retain spider, velvet
and rock crabs. In addition, crab pot fishers may take a range of marine scalefish
species as bait for crab pot fishing operations. Bait species may not be sold.

Recreational fishers are permitted to take blue crabs from any waters of the state
subject to boat, bag and size limits, and closures.

There is a population of blue crabs in the bays on the West Coast of South
Australia (West of 135°E) however they are not included in the commercial Blue
Crab Fishery and are subject to management by the Marine Scalefish Fishery
Management Committee.


Relevant Management Legislation

The fishery is supported by legislation, particularly the Fisheries Act 1982 and the
Fisheries (Blue Crab Fishery) Regulations 1998 and the Fisheries (Marine
Scalefish Fishery) Regulations 1991. These legislation provides the basis for
management of the fishery. This includes defining the geographic extent of the
fishery, access arrangements, recognition of quota, provisions for transfer of
units and fishery licences.


Fisheries Management Committees (FMC’s)

Fisheries Management Committees (FMC’s) are formed for specified fisheries
under the Fisheries (Management Committees) Regulations 1995 to advise the
Minister for Primary Industries and Resources regarding appropriate management
of the fishery.

The role of the Blue Crab Fishery Management Committee (BCFMC) is to provide
advice to the Minister for Primary Industries and Resources and the Director of
Fisheries on the management of the blue crab fishery. Membership and
responsibilities of the management committee has been determined under the
Fisheries (Management Committees) Regulations 1995. Corporate objectives and
goals of the management committee are described in the committee’s five year
strategic plan, which is a separate document to this fishery management plan.

                                                                                  5
Membership of the management committee is shown in Appendix II. The
Committee has a strong industry base with three members from the two
commercial sectors. In addition, there is a recreational fisher on the Committee in
recognition of the value the resource has to recreational fishers, plus an
experienced researcher (SARDI), and representatives from the South Australian
Recreational Fishing Advisory Council (SARFAC), South Australian Fishing
Industry Council (SAFIC) and Primary Industries and Resources South Australia
(PIRSA).

The Blue Crab Fishery Management Committee is required under the Fisheries
(Management Committees) Regulations 1995 to provide the Minister on or before
30 November each year a report on the operations of the management
committee during the preceding financial year. This will include a report on any
target or limit reference points reached during the reporting period and any
actions that resulted. The performance of the management committee and
fishery operations will also be rated against the stated objectives.


Development of Management Plans under the Fisheries Act

Each fishery managed under the partnership arrangement provided for by the
Fisheries (Management Committees) Regulations 1995 requires the FMC to
prepare a fishery management plan that establishes the principles for managing
the fishery within the statutory responsibilities and the commitment to
Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD). The Minister, in approving a plan,
endorses the basis for future management of the fishery and the obligations of
the parties responsible for managing the fishery.

This management plan is a living document that reflects current understanding of
the blue crab fishery and as such may change over time. The BCFMC does not
expect to radically depart from the stated management arrangements, biological
reference points or performance indicators unless the management committee
advises the Minister during the life of this plan that significant management
changes are necessary to conserve the blue crab resources.

Six months before the end of the five year period this management plan will
undergo a major review and a new five year plan will then be developed.

Performance of the fishery and the management framework will be assessed
against the various objectives established for the fishery and measured against
the performance indicators in this plan.
Objectives


6
The priority for management of the blue crab fishery is to ensure that annual
harvest levels are biologically sustainable so that future generations may benefit
from the resource.

Commensurate with this priority are a number of objectives that have been
developed by the Blue Crab Fishery Management Committee to complement the
broad directives of section 20 of the Fisheries Act 1982 :

(a) ensuring, through proper conservation, preservation and fisheries
management measures, that the living resources of the waters to which this Act
applies are not endangered or over exploited; and

(b) achieving the optimum utilisation and equitable distribution of those
resources.

The Blue Crab Fishery Management Committee has identified a number of key
objectives for it to meet the legislative requirements. These are:

1. To ensure sustainable harvests from the blue crab resource.

2. To ensure equitable allocation of the blue crab resource to the
   commercial and recreational sectors.

3. To provide efficient and cost effective management of the fishery.

4. To provide for secure access to the resource for each sector.

5. To minimise the impact of blue crab fishing on the environment.

6. To provide society with benefits (social, environmental and financial)
   from the blue crab resource.




                                                                                7
Strategies

Sustainability

•   Ensure that systems are in place to collect adequate information on which to
    assess the status of the fishery.
•   Develop a 5-year research plan for the fishery.
•   Measure key fishery indicators on an annual basis being:

       catch
       relative exploitation rate
       pre-recruit
       sex ratio

•   Commission a stock assessment report annually.
•   Estimate the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the commercial fishery annually
    (inclusive of recreational and commercial catch).


Allocation

•   Identify the current distribution of catch between the sectors (recreational, pot
    and marine scale).
•   Allocate a Total Allowable Catch to the commercial sector annually.
•    Seek advice from SARFAC on the methods for monitoring and managing
    recreational catch.
•   Introduce a process for the transfer of catch between sectors.


Economic Efficiency

•   Identify and recover attributable costs from the commercial sector each year.
•   Commission a report on the economic health of the fishery annually.
•   Ensure that systems are in place to collect necessary economic information
    annually.
•   Measure key economic indicators on an annual basis being:

       Cost of management as a percentage of GVP
       cost of management compared to similar fisheries in other states
       average value of South Australian product compared to similar product from
       other states
•   Enable the introduction of flexible management arrangements to allow for
    improvements in efficiency.


8
Access

•   Develop and implement mechanisms for ensuring secure access for blue crab
    fishers.
•   Identify the present level of access afforded to all users of the blue crab
    resource


Conservation

•   Identify impacts on the blue crab fishery from other sources such as pollution.
•   Maintain and review existing management arrangements for minimising the
    impact of blue crab fishing on the marine environment.


Social

•   Ensure fishing and management strategies provide for a return to the
    community in terms of employment and regional economic activity.
•   Ensure that access to blue crabs is available to all members of the
    community.
•   Develop mechanisms to minimise conflict between users of the blue crab
    resource.




                                                                                 9
                        3.     Management Issues
History of Management

Many fishing sectors have had access to blue crabs over the years including the
marine scalefish, prawn and recreational fisheries and in more recent times,
dedicated blue crab pot fishers. The management arrangements for each of
these has changed over time and a history for each is provided in Appendix 1.


The Resource

Biological & Ecological

Habitat Dependency

The Gulfs and West Coast of South Australia are considered to be at the lower
limit of temperatures for P. pelagicus to exist. Their preference is for warmer
tropical or sub-tropical waters.

Smaller juvenile crabs are predominantly found foraging in shallow waters whilst
larger individuals are more common amongst seagrass and unvegetated habitats
further offshore.

Catch rates vary on a seasonal basis. During the winter months when the water
temperature is considerably colder P. pelagicus is less active. Catch rates
usually decline over this period.

Distribution

The blue crab, Portunus pelagicus, is distributed throughout the coastal margins
of the tropical regions of the western Indian Ocean and the Eastern Pacific
(Kailola et al., 1993). It is essentially a tropical crab and consequently, in
southern Australia, it has had to adjust its life cycle to complete its growth and
reproduction during the period of the year in which inshore water temperatures
are elevated to those of the tropical regions. For the rest of the year blue crabs
are capable of withstanding the variations in the southern Australian environment
but are relatively inactive. Juvenile crabs live in the mangrove creeks and mud
flats.




10
Stock structure

Populations of P. pelagicus within the Spencer Gulf, Gulf St Vincent and West
Coast regions of South Australia are believed to represent separate stocks. It has
also been suggested that in the West Coast and Spencer Gulf regions there is
some stock sub-structuring.


Feeding ecology

P. pelagicus is an opportunistic feeder and can be either a predator or a
scavenger. Their diet includes a variety of sessile and slow moving invertebrates,
in particular, molluscs and polychaetes and to a lesser extent seagrass. P.
pelagicus is most active during the night, with males proving more active than
females and attaining a larger size.


Reproductive cycle

Male and female blue crabs generally reach sexual maturity within twelve
months. In South Australian waters crabs close to the minimum legal size
(11cm) will generally be sexually mature and have produced at least two batches
of eggs for one season.

The spawning season is spread over 3 to 4 months (November – February). The
growing season varies significantly as those spawning in mid to late summer
have a shorter growing season. Female maturity (i.e. ovarian development)
appears to be triggered by rising water temperature in spring. After mating the
sperm is stored in female spermatheca until the eggs are fertilised on extrusion.
The sperm is thought to remain viable for up to 12 months in order for the right
environmental conditions to occur. Fertilisation of the eggs occurs externally on
extrusion from the female. Studies have shown that the time necessary for P.
pelagicus to complete a reproductive cycle varies according to the annual
temperature variations. It is highly sensitive to the environment, which is one of
the limiting factors with respect to reproduction in the temperate environment of
southern Australia.

In South Australian waters, egg-bearing (berried) females very rarely appear in
the commercial catch between April and September when the temperature is
relatively low. The peak period for ovary maturation and spawning starts in
October with peak proportions of berried females occurring in November -
December.



                                                                               11
Egg production is directly related to the size, weight and growth of an individual.
P. pelagicus is highly fecund (a female can produce between 500,000 to
2,000,000 eggs per spawn). Following spawning, the subsequent arrival of pre-
recruits occurs in two peaks, a major one in June-July followed by a minor one in
early February.

Crabs are susceptible to capture at any time of the day. The fishery is influenced
by the period during which crabs are soft shelled following their moult. During this
period they may mate. They are not vulnerable to capture at this time as they are
not actively searching for food. Immediately following moulting they are of limited
commercial value as they are lacking condition (lower meat ratio per animal and
softer meat).


Current Monitoring

Catch and effort data

Commercial fishers provide ongoing sample data from their fishing activities
through a monthly catch and effort return. This return provides details of daily
fishing activities including:

      Fishing method
      Location
      Depth
      Soak time
      Male to female ratio
      Number of soft crabs
      Number of berried crabs
      Number of undersized crabs
      Number of dead crabs
      Catch weight

This information is requested and provided for the provision of an annual stock
assessment, which is a requirement of the fishery management process in South
Australia.




12
Historical Catch Information

A summary of commercial catches taken in the fishery is shown below in table 2.

Table 2 & Figure 2: A summary of crab catches (kg) taken in Spencer Gulf and
Gulf St Vincent between 1983/84 and 1998/99

Year                                                     Spencer Gulf                                                            Gulf St Vincent     Total
1983/84                                                                                        5,128                                          21,544                                                              26672
1984/85                                                                                       28,738                                          23,777                                                             52,515
1985/86                                                                                      112,735                                          27,452                                                            140,187
1986/87                                                                                      125,648                                          28,267                                                            153,915
1987/88                                                                                      146,085                                          34,042                                                            180,127
1988/89                                                                                      234,578                                          41,994                                                            276,572
1989/90                                                                                      263,649                                          92,139                                                            355,788
1990/91                                                                                      288,415                                         137,474                                                            425,889
1991/92                                                                                      299,485                                         114,748                                                            414,233
1992/93                                                                                      304,667                                         203,849                                                            508,516
1993/94                                                                                      305,146                                         238,627                                                            543,773
1994/95                                                                                      336,303                                         264,894                                                            601,197
1995/96                                                                                      366,669                                         284,592                                                            651,261
1996/97                                                                                      297,343                                         165,050                                                            462,393
1997/98                                                                                      287,193                                         187,472                                                            474,665
1998/99                                                                                      323,869                                         211,592                                                            535,461


                     700

                     600
    Catch (tonnes)




                     500

                     400
                                                                                                                                                                                              Spencer Gulf
                     300
                                                                                                                                                                                              Gulf St Vincent
                     200

                     100

                      0
                           1983/84

                                     1984/85

                                               1985/86

                                                          1986/87

                                                                    1987/88

                                                                              1988/89

                                                                                         1989/90

                                                                                                   1990/91

                                                                                                             1991/92

                                                                                                                       1992/93

                                                                                                                                  1993/94

                                                                                                                                            1994/95

                                                                                                                                                      1995/96

                                                                                                                                                                1996/97

                                                                                                                                                                          1997/98

                                                                                                                                                                                    1998/99




                                                                                        Financial Year




                                                                                                                                                                                                             13
Surveys

Information derived from catch and effort returns is supplemented by biological
information on the size composition of the catch, reproductive status and sex
ratios. This information together with the catch data allows modeling of the
exploitation rate in the fishery and the derivation of the various performance
indicators for the fishery.

Both Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent have been divided into discrete areas for
the purpose of stratified sampling to assist in identifying the differences in size and
abundance over time.



Access

The South Australian blue crab fishery is made up of three major stakeholder
groups:

           •   The Commercial Pot Fishery

           •   The Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery

           •   The Recreational Fishery



Commercial Access

Commercial fishers are allocated an agreed level of access based upon units.
There are 10,854 units in the commercial sector. These units provide access to
a prescribed catch value (55 kg for 1998/99). Within the commercial sector
there are two groups. The pot sector comprises fishers whose activities are
exclusively confined to blue crab fishing. Fishers in the marine scalefish sector
may target both blue crabs and other species under their marine scalefish fishery
licence.

Commercial access is provided by the issue of quota units to all fishers who have
met the initial requirements for entry to the fishery contained in the legislation.
Units are transferable between fishers within each industry group (pot/marine
scalefish) and between all operators in the commercial sector. Units are not
transferable between commercial blue crab fishing zones. The 1998/99
commercial fishery quota was set at 597 tonnes per year shared between the pot
and marine scale sectors. The total catch is recorded each year through a
process of quota monitoring implemented in each of the commercial sectors.

14
In order to encourage efficient use of the resource there are minimum unit
holdings that a fisher must comply with to either remain in or enter the fishery. In
order to hold a licence that provides for the use of crab pots a fisher must hold at
least half of the number of units held by a pot fisher in that zone at the
commencement of the arrangements (July 1998). In order to continue to
participate a licensee in the marine scalefish fishery who gained entry in July
1998 must retain a number of units equal to at least one tonne of blue crabs. A
licensee who subsequently entered the fishery must have obtained at least 80
units in order to participate in the fishery.


Table 3: Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for the blue crab fishery for
the financial years 1997/98 and 1998/99.

FISHERY SECTOR             TACC 1997/98 (kg)        TACC 1998/99 (kg)
Spencer Gulf Pot                           300,129                  330,142
Spencer     Gulf    Marine                   30,288                   33,317
Scalefish
Gulf St Vincent Pot                        140,328                  154,361
Gulf St Vincent Marine                       71,993                   79,193
Scalefish
TOTAL                                      542,738                  597,013


Commercial Pot Fishery

Blue crab pot fishers operate under a blue crab pot licence issued pursuant to
the Scheme of Management (Blue Crab Fishery) Regulations 1998. There are
currently two pot fishers in Gulf St Vincent and four in Spencer Gulf.

The pot fishers have access to the use of crab pots to harvest their allocation.
They generally fish in water deeper than those fished by marine scalefish fishers
and recreational fishers. The ability to access deeper water provides for an
extended season as they can access the stocks in waters where they continue to
be vulnerable to fishing during the cooler months. Pot fishers have developed
their operations to make effective use of relatively high catches in order to
produce higher returns from the resource.

The pot fishers had approximately 81% of the Total Allowable Commercial Catch
(TACC) in 1998/99. In 1998/99 this represented 484.5 tonnes. The pot sector
allocation of the TACC was initially based upon equal allocations to each fisher in
each of the zones.




                                                                                 15
Each pot fisher may use up to 100 crab pots at any one time. Pots are often
lifted more than once a day during periods of high catch rates. Pots are lifted,
cleared, rebaited and set again in each operation.

Pot boats are manned by crews of 2 to 3 persons, a skipper and one or two
deckhands. Most operations are undertaken daily. Trips for continuous
operations at sea are not normally undertaken in the fishery.


Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery

Marine scalefish fishers operate under a marine scalefish fishery licence issued
pursuant to the Scheme of Management (Marine Scalefish Fisheries)
Regulations 1991.

Historically a number of fishers in the marine scalefish fishery took blue crabs as
a regular part of their operations. These crabs were taken either by the use of
traps – drop or hoop nets, fish nets or by dabbing and raking in shallow water.
Initially catches in this sector varied from several hundred kilograms to in excess
of 20 tonnes.

 The exclusion of raking and dabbing methods from commercial fishing
operations has helped in the reduction of conflict with recreational fishers in
areas of high recreational fishing activity.    This has also reduced the
environmental impact from wading and raking in important shallow near shore
and intertidal zones.

Provisions are in place to ensure that both original and new entrants are required
to hold minimum allocations in order to participate in the fishery.

The marine scalefish sector had approximately 19% of the TACC in 1998/99
(Table 1). In 1998/99 this represents 112.4 tonnes. Allocation of units within this
sector was based upon a fisher meeting a minimum level of catch over a three
year period. The average of their catch for the assessed period was determined
as the basis for their allocation. At present there are 25 marine scale blue crab
quota holders.



Harvesting Methods

Pot and crab net fishing techniques used in the commercial fishery are considered
benign and cause little damage to the benthos. Other mitigating factors that
minimise adverse effects on the ecology of the regions fished include:


16
   1. Commercial fishing only takes place in offshore and near shore areas
      where the water is relatively deep (greater than two metres), unlike the
      recreational fishery where fishing (raking and dabbing) takes place in the
      intertidal seagrass, sand and mudflat areas;

   2. The commercial fishery is spatially focussed in a relatively small area of the
      gulfs.

   3. Legislation under which the pot fishery operates specifically prohibits the
      taking of bycatch species other than some other crab species.

   4. The commercial fishery is based upon baited traps (pots and crab nets).
      The effectiveness of these devices is limited to the period when the bait is
      available to attract crabs within the vicinity of a trap. With the mesh size
      currently used in the traps (75mm) small (undersized) crabs can escape
      from the trap reducing incidental mortalities. When bait is no longer
      available to attract crabs they will leave a trap or crab net.

   5. While some crabs are still taken by gill or haul net, this practice is not as
      common today as fishers have recognised the damage to the product from
      entanglement and the level of handling required. Better returns through
      product quality are available for product handled quickly and efficiently by
      fishers using hoop nets and drop nets.


Regulation of commercial fishing

Both sectors of the commercial blue crab fishery are regulated by: catch quotas,
equipment restrictions, closed seasons, minimum legal lengths and must return
all berried females to the water.

The quota monitoring system is managed through a paper audit trail from the
time the blue crabs are landed to the point of sale. At the point of landing fishers
are required to complete a Blue Crab Catch and Disposal Record (CDR)
furnishing information such as estimated weight of the blue crabs, port and time
of landing, name of the receiving processor and if the crabs are either cooked or
live. The CDR then accompanies the blue crab to the processor where
immediately upon receiving the blue crab the processor must accurately weigh
the blue crab and complete Part B of the CDR with the certified accurate weight.
The CDR is then forwarded to the Fisheries Compliance Office by the fish
processor within 24 hours. CDR information is entered into a database and
individual catches recorded against allocated quotas.




                                                                                 17
Recreational Access

The recreational sector is a major user of the blue crab resource. Blue crabs are a
significant target catch of recreational fishers over the warmer months. Crabs are
taken from boats by using drop or hoop nets and in shore based activities such as
raking and dabbing while wading in the shallows following the tidal movement.

 A detailed analysis of the recreational take of blue crabs has not been conducted,
however, a recent survey determined the boat based catch of blue crabs to be in
the order of 160 tonnes per year. There is considerable conjecture over the extent
of the shore based catch, with estimates for the shore based catch ranging from
1-2 times that of the boat based catch. The catch of blue crabs by this sector is
likely to be substantial even when compared with commercial production.

Unlike most other species targeted by recreational fishers, the blue crab
recreational bag limit is often reached on a fishing excursion. With the growing
level of recreational participation and increased competition for crabs the
recreational sector has begun a process of reviewing recreational arrangements.

Recreational fishers are subject to some of the same restrictions applied to
commercial fishers, including size limits and the protection of berried females.
However, a closed season does not apply and while there is no specific allocation
of the resource made to the recreational sector, each fisher is subject to output
controls through the imposition of daily bag and boat limits as well as possession
limits.

In order to gain a greater understanding of the extent of recreational participation
and production a National Recreational Survey is being undertaken for the year
2000/2001, with the South Australian component administered by SARDI
Information from this study will supplement our understanding of boat-based
activity and provide a better measure of shore based activity.

The recreational sector is regulated through bag and boat limits, and includes
minimum size regulations and protection of berried females. Further controls are
applied through possession limits (2.5 times daily bag limit) and gear restrictions.

The current bag limit for recreational fishers is a maximum of 40 blue crabs per
day per person, and a boat limit of 120. A maximum of three drop nets and 10
hoop nets may be used depending on other gear being used at the time. These
regulations are currently under review.

In 1996 a voluntary recreational fishing National Code of Practice was adopted
and addresses the following objectives:

       Looking after our fisheries;
       Protecting the environment;
18
       Treating fish humanely; and
       Respecting the rights of others.

A further recreational Code of Practice is being developed by the SA
Recreational Fisheries Committee network for jetty and platform fishing and is
anticipated to be published in 2000. This particular code of practice will address
environmental issues on and offshore and various other protocols.

Recreational gear and methods such as raking are not considered a threat to the
habitat.


Products

There are three main products developed by the commercial blue crab fishery.
Crabs are sold:

   §   Fresh green
   §   Cooked
   §   Pickled

Picked product mostly ends up as pickled or pasteurised crab meat.

A fourth product, live crabs, is being investigated by some fishers and
processors. There undoubtedly other products as well, which are yet to be
investigated.

Commercial fishers have implemented a season closure (November to January)
to avoid poor quality product entering the markets.


Markets

Approximately 70% of blue crabs are sold interstate to buyers from the Sydney
and Melbourne fish markets and onsold to wholesalers, retailers, processors and
restaurants. The balance is sold in Adelaide, with a small volume exported to
Asia. The only export product at this stage is frozen cooked crabs and crabmeat.


Tourism

Approximately 90% of all recreational blue crab fishing occurs in the northern
waters of Gulf St Vincent. Recreational Blue crab fishing activities may attract
fishers from surrounding towns, Adelaide, interstate and overseas and as with
other forms of recreational fishing is important to the tourism industry in South
Australia.
                                                                               19
Conservation

There is an increasing focus globally on conservation issues in the fishing
industry and the Blue Crab Fishery Management Committee is very conscious of
its responsibilities in this area. The Commonwealth Government, in its 1998
Oceans Policy made a commitment to the long term ecological sustainability and
productivity of Australia’s fisheries. Two Acts, the Environmental Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC), and the Wildlife Protection
(Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982 (WP (REI) Act) will help achieve
this goal.

Commercial blue crab fishers have invested heavily in minimising their impact on
the marine environment. Pots have been modified during the formative years of
the fishery to exclude marine scalefish species previously taken as bycatch.

Fishers have implemented voluntary closures in some areas but these relate to
resource sharing arrangements with recreational fishers rather than being for
marine conservation purposes.

Aquatic Reserves

A number of Aquatic Reserves are located within the commercial Blue Crab
Fishery zones. These reserves ensure maintenance of ecologically-sensitive
areas, to protect nursery areas or to conserve habitat types. Within the waters of
any aquatic reserve, no person may disturb the seabed, or remove or interfere
with any aquatic or benthic flora or fauna, or discharge, release or deposit any
matter. The following aquatic reserves are located within or adjacent to the Blue
Crab Fishery zones:

      Barker Inlet
      Douglas Bank
      Whyalla-Cowleds Landing
      Yatala Harbour
      St Kilda – Chapman Creek (can take crabs by hand, crab rake or hoop net
      only)


Marine pollution has been identified as a main issue requiring further research.
Effluent from Bolivar in Gulf St Vincent, the outlets from both the Torrens Island
and Port Augusta power stations and contaminants emitted from industry in Pt
Pirie, Pt Augusta and Whyalla are considered the most significant. Main
concerns relate to the negative impacts on blue crab nursery grounds.


20
Other Fisheries

There is very little interaction between the blue crab fishery and other fisheries.
The prawn fisheries in both gulfs take blue crabs as bycatch however the vast
majority of these crabs are returned to the water live. Communication between
the two fisheries ensures that prawn trawlers avoid trawling over set blue crab
pots.


Social Issues

 Initial access arrangements for the commercial blue crab fishery were established
based on those marine scalefish fishers who could demonstrate a history of and
commitment to utilising the blue crab resource. This ensured that the original
allocation was fair and equitable.

The blue crab fishery will continually face issues relating to sharing of the resource
between the commercial and recreational sectors. In recent years some areas
have been set aside exclusively for recreational fishers: Northern Spencer Gulf,
Whyalla and Port Broughton.

Because of the closure implemented by the commercial fishery between
November to January, the recreational sector has exclusive access to the blue
crab fishery over the Christmas holiday period when recreational crab fishing is
at its most popular.

The basis for decisions impacting on economic performance of the fishery and
licences is an annual economic analysis that is supported as an essential research
project in the fishery.

The report covers a range of issues such as gross income, cash costs, capital.
This information is used to analyse the performance of the industry against agreed
economic indicators including rate of return on capital, rate of return on gear and
equipment, economic impacts to the industry and impacts on the State’s economy
through flow-on effects.

Pot fishers currently have a reported rate of return to capital of 7.2%, with
economic rent for this group calculated as $147,000 for 1997/98.

The rate of return to capital from the marine scalefish fishers, based on their blue
crab operations only, was 1%, with economic rent for this group calculated as -
$15,000 for 1997/98. The overall performance of the fishery is reduced by the
lower returns from the fishers with an overall economic rent of $132,000 from a
GVP of $2,026,000.
                                                                                   21
The BCFMC is responsible for recommending services and service levels required
for effectively managing the fishery to meet its statutory and management
responsibilities. The Committee reviews services annually to determine the
appropriateness of services. Through more effectively identifying critical areas and
improving management arrangements the Committee is in a position to effect
changes to improve economic performance of the industry.


         4.    Management Strategies for Achieving Objectives


Objective 1 : To ensure sustainable harvests from the blue crab resource

The BCFMC in making decisions regarding management of the blue crab
resource will adopt a ‘precautionary approach to the management of the
blue crab fishery. The strategies set out below will provide for ongoing
improvements in harvesting practices and strategies that ensure the
biological sustainability of the stocks of Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent.


Strategies

     •   Ensure that systems are in place to collect necessary fishery-related
         information annually, by March.
     • Develop a 5-year research plan for the fishery by December 2000.
     This shall include an intensive study every fifth year to re-evaluate fishery
     indicators.

     •   Measure key fishery indicators on a quarterly basis as detailed in table 4.

Table 4 – Key fishery indicators

Indicator                                               Interim               Interim
                                                    Target reference      Limit reference
Catch                                                    TAC               80% of TAC
Relative exploitation rate
       Gulf St Vincent (% of 1994 level)                    50                  100
       Spencer Gulf (% of 1990 level)                       40                   80
Pre-recruit (as % undersize in June-July)
       Gulf St Vincent                                      10                   5
       Spencer Gulf                                         30                  15
Sex ratio (% female in June-July)                           30                  15

The target and reference points are starting points and will be reviewed and
refined annually.
22
•   Commission an annual stock assessment report upon which to determine
    appropriate harvesting levels (Total Allowable Commercial Catch) for the year
    ending 31st March for presentation to the BCFMC in June each year (note that
    this is being reviewed), to measure each of these indicators against each of
    the agreed target reference points.
•   Determine the total allowable catch (TAC) for the commercial sector of the
    fishery annually in June Consider individual recreational catch limits at this
    time.
•   Review the target and limit reference points for each of the performance
    indicators.


Objective 2 : To ensure equitable allocation of the blue crab resource to the
commercial and recreational sectors

    •   Identify/investigate the Distribution of catch between all sectors.

    This management plan recognises the presence of three sectors of the blue
    crab resource (recreational, pot and marine scalefish). Each sector has a
    valid claim to part of the fishery. This plan aims to ensure that access to the
    resource remains equitable between all stakeholders. The first step is for the
    Fisheries Management Committee to identify the current levels of access for
    each sector.

    Action: BCFMC
    Due: June (annually)

    •   Allocate a total allowable catch to the commercial sector annually, in June.
    •   Develop a compliance program to ensure each sector complies with
        Management arrangements controlling catch in the fishery.
    •   SARFAC member to advise on methods for monitoring and managing
        recreational catch, in March.

    •   Identify current distribution of catch between stakeholders and investigate
        possible processes for transfer of catch between these stakeholders.


    Action: BCFMC
    Due: 1st July 2001




                                                                                 23
Objective 3 : To provide efficient and cost effective management of the
fishery

•    Clearly identify the costs of management to each sector of the fishery and
     attribute these costs to the sector

     A major factor in the relatively small blue crab fishery is the cost of
     management being clearly and correctly attributed to each sector. The
     BCFMC should ensure that this occurs on an annual basis.

     Action: BCFMC
     Due: March (annually)

•    Commission an annual report on the economic health of the fishery to be
     provided to the BCFMC by 1 May annually utilising the following agreed
     economic indicators:

         Cost of management
         Cost of management compared to similar fisheries in other states
         Average value of South Australian product compared to similar product
         from other states
         Other indicators identified under objective 6 : social objectives

     The BCFMC has agreed to use the Econsearch economic indicators as a
     starting point, which will be reviewed and refined annually for each of the
     next five years. The BCFMC aims to have long term indicators in place at
     the end of the five year period.



     Table 5 - Economic Indicators for the Blue Crab Fishery
    Economic                                     Year
    Indicators             1998    2000    2001     2002       2003    2004

                  Pot
 versus GVP %




                            12.1    10.0     9.0      8.0       7.0      5.0
(Gross value of
 management




                  Sector
production)
 Cost of




                  Marine
                  scale     31.8    15.0     14.0     13.0      10.0     7.0
                  Sector
     South Australian
    price for blue crab
                            1.1     1.15     1.2      1.25      1.3      1.4
     versus Average
     Australian price
24
    Action : BCFMC
    Due : March (annually)

•   Ensure that systems are in place to collect necessary economic information
    annually.
•   Enable the introduction of flexible management arrangements to allow for
    improvements in efficiency.



Objective 4 : Provide for secure access to the resource for each sector

•   Identify the present level of access afforded to sectors of the blue crab fishery

Existing access arrangements can be defined by access; by time (egg seasonal
closure), species, catch as a % of available resource, gear and area. Each of the
three sectors are to provide a report to the BCFMC by March 2001.

•   Develop and implement mechanisms for ensuring secure access for blue crab
    fishers by July 2001. These could include :-

       Duration of the commercial licence
       Defined interest of the resource
       Ability to defend interest
       Transferability of the commercial licence


Objective 5 : To minimise the impact of blue crab fishing on the
environment.

•   Identify impacts on the blue crab fishery from other sources such as pollution.
•   Maintain existing management arrangements for minimising the impact of blue
    crab fishing on the marine environment.
•   Develop and promote the use of harvesting techniques and gear technology to
    assist in minimizing impacts on the benthos within the area of each fishery.
    This includes reducing the mortality rate to below the current levels and
    reduced wastage rates in the distribution chain..
•   Support and promote rehabilitation of the marine environment within the gulfs.




                                                                                    25
Objective 6 : To provide society with a return from the blue swimmer crab
resource

•    Ensure fishing and management strategies provide for a return to the
     community in terms of employment and regional economic activity.
•    Ensure that access to blue crabs is available to all members of the community.
•    Develop mechanisms to minimise conflict between users of the blue crab
     resource.
•    To inform and educate the public about the social impact and benefits of blue
     crab fishing.
•    To provide the community with a ‘clean green’ product that exceeds
     established food safety standards.
•    To support a high standard of quality assurance.
•    To ensure sustainable management of the fishery in order to provide direct and
     indirect employment opportunities within the community.
•    To establish and maintain regular contact with other fishery management
     committees and other interest groups.




26
Appendix I

HISTORY OF MANAGEMENT


Many fishing sectors have had access to blue crabs over the years including the
marine scalefish, prawn and recreational fisheries and in more recent times,
dedicated blue crab pot fishers. The management arrangements for each of
these has changed over time and a history for each is provided below.

Marine Scalefish Fishery

Blue crabs were first taken commercially as incidental catch in the marine
scalefish and prawn fisheries. In the late 1970’s, the South Australian
Department of Fisheries began to investigate the potential for the development of
a commercial blue crab fishery. An experimental commercial blue crab fishery
was established in 1983 when a limited number of permits were offered to
licence holders in the marine scalefish fishery to use up to 100 pots (specialised
crab traps) each to develop a single species fishery. Until the establishment of
this pot fishery in 1983 the taking of blue crabs had been an activity carried out
with only limited controls such as bag and gear limits. Crabs were taken with a
number of devices including hoop nets , drop nets, haul and gill nets. Catch
taken by gill and haul nets was mainly as a bycatch to other fishing operations.
As net fishing is not permitted in waters deeper than five metres, most of the
catch was taken while fish were in shallow water during the warmer months. As a
result, the fishery was seen as a seasonal resource which supplemented or
complemented other fishing activities.

When licence transfer arrangements were introduced in 1982 a maximum
number of ten hoop nets were permitted to be registered for each licence on
transfer.

Four licence holders operating in upper Spencer Gulf were issued experimental
trawl permits in late 1981. Trawling for blue crab failed for several reasons
including objections to the catching method, potential impact on the prawn fishery
and unreliable catches.

Access to blue crabs by the marine scalefish sector was further regulated in 1998
with the introduction of legislation establishing a scheme of management for the
crab fishery. In particular, Spencer Gulf was closed to the taking of blue crabs by
all marine scalefish licence holders except for those operators that demonstrated
a reliance on the fishery. A number of Yorke Peninsula based fishers transferred
effort to Gulf St Vincent in order to target blue crabs.



                                                                                27
Prawn Fishery

Until 1980 prawn fishers were entitled to retain for sale all blue crabs taken as
bycatch in prawn trawling operations.

In 1980 regulations were changed and a bycatch arrangement was introduced to
the prawn fishery. Under this arrangement prawn fishers were entitled to take a
maximum of 40 crabs per boat per day as bycatch. In April 1985 this was
changed to 40 blue crabs per person on board per day. This provision was
removed in March 1986 as the influx of crabs from prawn bycatch dramatically
lowered the sale price for full time blue crab fishers.

Prawn fishers are not currently permitted to take blue crabs. Most prawn trawlers
use crab bags in the prawn nets to ensure that crabs are not mixed with the
prawn catch. Crabs are discarded live from the crab bags with minimal mortality.

Pot Fishery

The blue crab pot fishery was established in 1983 through a call for expressions
of interest from marine scalefish fishery licence holders to obtain experimental
permits for trapping blue crabs. Six permits were issued on an annual basis with
no guaranteed right of renewal.

Pot fishers were not required to relinquish access to the marine scalefish fishery
or be committed to or dependant upon their activities in the blue crab fishery.

Fishers were given permits allowing them to use a maximum of 100 pots and
restricting them to fishing in one of the following areas:

•    West Coast – all waters west of longitude 135° east;
•    Gulf St Vincent – all waters north of a line from Port Stanvac chimney to
     Oyster point (Stansbury);
•    Spencer Gulf – all waters north of a line from Cape Elizabeth to Cape Driver,
     excluding aquatic reserves.

During the 1985/86 season a total of twelve fishers were offered licences to take
blue crabs in the three experimental blue crab fisheries (4 West Coast, 6
Spencer Gulf and 2 Gulf St Vincent) for a period of 2 years. After this period the
fishery would be reassessed. All fishers were existing marine scalefish fishery
licence holders and were required to place these licences in abeyance during the
trial period.




28
The West Coast fishery collapsed in 1986, probably due to an environmentally
correlated recruitment failure, and the four fishers in this area surrendered their
entitlements. A licence was allocated to a new fisher to assess the potential of
Murat Bay for blue crab fishing as this area had not previously been trialed. The
community objected to the allocation of this licence and the fisher was
subsequently relocated to Gulf St Vincent in 1989.

Several operators had withdrawn from the fishery by this stage and in 1989 there
were two fishers operating in Gulf St Vincent and four in Spencer Gulf. These
licences are still involved in the fishery.

In 1996 the South Australian Government established a commercial blue crab
fishery and implemented management and research strategies to maintain a
sustainable and viable fishery. The new management arrangements developed
a limited entry fishery with access arrangements determined by historical catches
of blue crab. The fishery was divided into two areas (Spencer Gulf and Gulf St
Vincent) and two sectors operate in each (pot sector and marine scalefish
sector). Output controls were imposed with a global Total Allowable Catch (TAC).
The TAC was allocated to the fishery as quota, which was divided between
operators in each sector.




                                                                                29
Table 6: Development of the Blue Crab Fishery in South Australia.
(Kumar et al 1999)
 Year                                                                                                      Reference
 1981   A commercial blue crab trawl fishery was sought but was unsuccessful in yield – a          Department of Fisheries, 1981
        number of experimental trawl nets were trialed.
 1982   A survey of crab catching methods by local fishers was conducted – Department of           Department of Fisheries, 1982
        Fisheries produced “Blue Crabs in SA – their Status, Potential and Biology.”
 1983   Permits were issued to 6 Marine Scalefish Fishermen to conduct commercial fishing          Department of Fisheries, 1984
        for Blue Crabs in SA using craypots.
 1984   Marine scalefish fisher received a grant of $17,000 to develop a method of keeping         Department of Fisheries, 1984
        crabs alive after catching.
 1985   26th Feb, 6 experimental licences were granted for a commercial crab fishery: 2 for        Department of Fisheries, 1985
        Gulf St. Vincent and 4 for Spencer Gulf.
 1985   SARDI conducted a 3 month study tour of United States crab fisheries to evaluate          Department of Fisheries, 1985
        techniques of catching, handling, transporting and marketing of crabs, with particular
        application to the requirements of the Australian crab fisheries
 1986   Prawn trawlers were prohibited from selling blue crabs caught incidentally in their             Grove-Jones, 1988
        prawn catch.
 1988   3 Spencer Gulf MSF licences were granted ministerial exemption, permitting them to            Baker & Kumar , 1994
        continue catching and selling blue crabs from Spencer Gulf waters. Capture and sale
        of blue crabs by all other MSF licensees operating in Spencer Gulf was prohibited.
 1988   A freeze was implemented and is currently in place, on the endorsement of hoop and             Baker & Kumar, 1994
        drop nets by MSF who had not demonstrated prior reasonable use of these devices.
 1991   Commercial diving for blue crabs by marine scalefish fishery was prohibited.                   Baker & Kumar, 1994
 1996   The SA Government established a commercial fishery implementing a quota system.                  McDonald, 1997
 1996   A core research program commenced in September 1996 on the blue crab.                              Kumar, 1997
 1997   First National workshop on blue crab                                                               Kumar 1997
 1997   National research Strategy for blue crab                                                           Kumar 1998
 1998   Blue crabs : Stock Assessment Series 98/1                                                Kumar, Ferguson and Boxall. 1998




30
Appendix II

MEMBERSHIP OF THE BLUE CRAB FISHERY MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE


Independent chairperson

1 member representing Spencer Gulf pot fishers

1 member representing Gulf St Vincent pot fishers

1 member representing marine scalefish quota holders

1 member representing recreational fishers

fishery manager (PIRSA) - non voting

research scientist (SARDI) - non voting

SAFIC representative – non voting

SARFAC representative – non voting




                                                           31
Appendix III

MANAGEMENT ACTION ON REACHING A LIMIT REFERENCE POINT

1. Notify the Minister for Primary Industries and Resources and participants in
   the fishery as appropriate.

2. Implement alternative management strategy as defined in decision rules or as
   developed by the management committee.

3. Undertake an examination of the causes and implications of ‘triggering’ a limit
   reference point.

4. Provide a report to the Minister and industry, within three months of the initial
   notification, on the outcomes of a review of the effect of triggering a limit
   reference point.




32
Appendix IV

REFERENCES



Baker, J. L. and Kumar, M., 1994. Review of the Blue Crab (Portunus pelagicus)
Fishery in South Australia. SARDI Research Report Series No.9. ISSN, 1324-
2083.

Caddy,J and Mahon, R.,1995. Reference points for fisheries management. FAO
Fisheries Technical Paper 347: 1-83.

Grove-Jones, R., 1988. Developments in the South Australian experimental blue
crab fishery. Safic. 12(3):4-8.

Kailola, P J, Williams, M J, Stewart, P C, Reidelt, R E, McNea, A and Grieve, C
(1993). Australian Fisheries Resources. Bureau of Resource Science, Dept of
Primary Industry, Canberra.

Kumar, M., 1997. Status of biology, research and the development of the Blue
Swimmer Crab, (Portunus pelagicus) fishery in South Australia. Proceedings of the
First National Workshop on Blue Swimmer Crab Portunus pelagicus. SARDI
Research report series. No 16, ISSN 1324-2083.

Kumar, M., Xiao, Y., Williams, H., Ferguson, G., Hooper, G., and Venema, S.,
1999. Blue Crab Fishery. South Australian Fisheries Assessment Series 99/01.

McDonald, N., 1997. South Australia’s Blue Crab fishery: the process of
recognition. Proceedings of the First National Workshop on Blue Swimmer Crab
Portunus pelagicus. SARDI Research Report Series No. 16, ISSN 1324-2083.

McGlennon, D., And Kinloch, M.A., 1997. Resource allocation in the South
Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery. FRDC project 93/249




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