PARK WATCH September 2020 |

The spectacular annual Spider Crab aggregation event may have all but been and gone for this year, but that does not mean the campaign to #SaveOurSpidercrabs is over, says nature conservation campaigner Shannon Hurley.

In the June edition of Park Watch we revealed the plight of the world-renowned but now at risk Spider Crabs in Port Phillip Bay.

The Victorian National Parks Association is working with the Spider Crab Alliance and Spider Crabs Melbourne – under the name  #SaveOurSpidercrabs, or SOS – representing members from the scuba diving industry, fishers, conservation and education sectors and concerned community members.

Together we are asking the newly-appointed Minister for Fishing and Boating, Melissa Horne, and the Victorian Fisheries Management Authority (VFA), for a no-take period between April and July during the Spider Crab annual moulting season.

Each year during this period, local and international visitors flock to witness the famed ‘march of the crabs’ into the shallows along the Mornington Peninsula to undertake this critical but vulnerable stage of their growth.

But concerns for the future of this tourism drawcard began in 2019 and escalated in 2020 when fishing of the crabs exploded in intensity at Rye and Blairgowrie piers, resulting in marine environment destruction and pollution and increased safety risks to the general public.

Crowds of people gathered with crab nets during the main aggregation. Chicken carcasses used as bait littered the seafloor, crab pots were dropped on people in the water, and marine rich pylons were dragged against by nets.

Since the previous article in Park Watch and state-wide coverage in the media, there has been some success. The Victorian Fisheries Management Authority (VFA) has undertaken satellite tagging of 15 Spider Crabs to find out where the Spider Crabs go once they have aggregated to moult – currently a mystery. These are welcome steps in the right direction, and we acknowledge the VFA for their efforts. However our concerns remain that these efforts do not address risks of the intense crabbing pressure that the past two years have seen, and without intervention, the 2021 event will be an even greater hazard for all involved.

The Spider Crab moulting aggregations are worth potentially more in terms of tourism value to the region than being harvested on mass. An introduction of a seasonal no-take period April–July will address the emerging issues, while still allowing the opportunity for recreational crabbing outside of the species sensitive moulting season.

Almost 34,000 signatures are calling for increased protection measures of the crabs, including the local and global community who have been distressed by the problematic crabbing practices. These include families, locals businesses, divers, fishers, and even Sir David Attenborough!

The Victorian Fisheries Authority and the Minister for Fishing and Boating can make the decision to give the Spider Crabs the protection they deserve. However, it is also important to get the Minister for Environment and Tourism on board.

Take Action

You can help escalate concern for the Spider Crabs to the three relevant Ministers:

  • Minister for Fishing and Boating, Melissa Horne
  • Minister for Environment, Lily D’Ambrosio
  • Minister for Tourism, Martin Pakula

 Send them your message


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