PARK WATCH June 2021 |
Steps in the right direction, but more bold action needed to protect this globally important marine phenomena, explains Shannon Hurley.
VNPA has been supporting the Save Our Spider Crabs Alliance to protect the world’s largest migration of Spider Crabs here in our very own Port Phillip Bay from environmental and social concerns around recent and intensive harvesting.
Last October, over 2,000 of you took action to call for a safe harbour for Spider Crabs.
Despite much opposition via submissions and letters, on 1 February this year, the Victorian Fisheries Authority changed the catch limit for Spider Crabs across Victorian waters from 30 reduced to 15 per day.
While this move could be seen as a small step in the right direction, VNPA and other groups, tourism operators, educators and individuals decided to oppose the proposed catch limit change for a number of reasons. We felt that this management change would not be in the crab’s best interest, nor for all the people who come from far and wide to admire this internationally recognised tourist attraction.
Instead, we have been advocating for stronger protection measures for a no-take period for April to July, the peak seasonal times of their life cycle when they are most vulnerable and seeking safety in numbers to complete their moult – at least until we know more about the science of these creatures.
Over a series of meetings in 2020 with the Victorian Fisheries Authority and other interested stakeholders, it was not clear that the catch limit reduction would actually do anything to protect the crabs, or address the swathe of environmental and social impacts of harvesting experienced the past two seasons. Pollution (including chicken carcasses) littering the piers and seafloor and crab pots floating this way and that is not our idea of the ideal way for admirers to experience the aggregation event in all its glory.
How many Spider Crabs there? Where do they come from? Where do they go? Are they males and females? How many come to the shallows to moult each year? Do they get the chance to breed before being harvested? These are the type of questions that need answering before their population is deemed ready to be opened up as a fishery.
Otherwise, we risk wiping out one of the world’s greatest marine spectacles.
We are told by the Victorian Fisheries Authority there will be education of fishers, along with some management measures, including additional fisheries compliance officers support and bins at the piers.
Will this be enough to combat the environmental damage, let alone the eye-sore?
We have our doubts, but this season will tell.
We will be watching and continuing to advocate for better protection measures for the Spider Crabs, a thorough science monitoring program to obtain an accurate understanding of their population numbers and dynamics, and for a harmonious enjoyment of such an incredible marine event. Until this happens, we still believe the best solution is the no-take period.
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