PARK WATCH June 2022 |

It seems these mysterious creatures may return this season, shares campaigner Shannon Hurley.

The new year isn’t just a fresh start and a time for warmer seas. It marks the approach of another season to witness the spectacular migration of Giant Spider Crabs of Port Phillip Bay. As the crabs sense the change in seasons and prepare for their journey, which history has shown can be any time between March and July, there have also been movements on land in preparation for their arrival.

In 2022 recreational fishers will only be able to take 15 Spider Crabs a day from Victorian waters. This limit came into force last year and has been officially extended for a further 12 months.

We’re glad the Victorian Fisheries Authority didn’t return the catch limit to 30, as was previously the case when Spider Crabs came under the generic catch limit for crabs. However, an extended reduction still doesn’t address the impacts of intensive harvesting in the absence of the completion of scientific research on their lifecycle, and the side effects of marine litter and risk to local marine life from the hauling of large numbers of nets from the pier. We continue to advocate for a no-take break for these unique crustaceans.

In what reads as a pretty cynical act, the public consultation period was set from 24 December to 7 January. Scheduling over the peak holiday period made it difficult for the public to have their say.

We hope in the future, fisheries take the views of stakeholders and community more seriously. Reporting on some great news, our push with SOS Spider Crab Alliance and others for funded research into Giant Spider Crabs has succeeded! The Victorian Government has committed to scientific research into crab habits and lifecycles in Port Phillip Bay.

The research is being undertaken by Deakin University, the state environment department and the fisheries authority, and will take place in 2022. Excitingly, the environment department will involve citizen science in its part of the project.

We are very pleased with these initiatives, and stand by our position that until the research is complete, there should be a moratorium on harvesting during a vital part of the crab’s lifecycle. We have already had multiple reports of Spider Crab sightings in deeper water this year. As they make their way for yet another aggregation, you can help by reporting any sightings either above and below the water to Crabwatch here.


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