PARK WATCH December 2020 |

Campaigner Shannon Hurley gives an update on Spider Crab matters.

It could be considered strange, yet equally spectacular, to glue algae and seaweed to your back as a costume. But that is precisely what Spider Crabs do to (though more to disguise themselves from predators than just a silly dress-up). And their massive congregation in Port Phillip Bay each year, with legs sprawling and claws snapping en masse, does make for quite the party!

The world’s largest Spider Crab aggregation is a strange spectacle that Victorians have become incredibly proud of sharing with the global marine community. (Read more detail in previous editions of Park Watch.)

Community support for safeguarding the Spider Crab aggregation from intense harvesting is strong. More than 2,000 of you responded to the recent Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) draft fisheries notice consultation. This was in addition to the more than 34,000 people who had already shown their support for extra Spider Crab protection measures to be implemented.

Thank you for being totally clawsome!

Letters from VNPA and our supporters have been sent to the VFA and the Victorian Ministers for Fisheries, Environment and Tourism, opposing the bag limit reduction from 30 to 15 crabs per day, on the basis that this proposed regulatory tool does not address the concerns of impacts on the marine environment. We have instead urged for a seasonal no-take period during the Spider Crab’s aggregation in Port Phillip Bay from April to July.

The ‘no-take break’ push comes in response to intense harvesting of the Spider Crabs in recent years, with large numbers hauled out from Rye Pier, and related litter, pollution and damage directly to the marine environment.

It is worth being clear that VNPA is not anti-fishing, and we are not attempting to stop fishing of the crabs, despite some claims. To correct this misinformation, VNPA has formal policy objectives that support recreational and commercial fishing, on the premise that fishing and harvesting practices are subject to careful and comprehensive monitoring and management arrangements, and consistent with marine plans and fisheries management.

In our view, this has not been the case with the Spider Crab harvesting practices in recent years. VNPA supports Spider Crab protection in the form of a no-take period at the peak seasonal times of their life cycle when they are most vulnerable and seeking safety in numbers to complete their moult. We see this as a solution to address the suite of negative impacts on this unique ecological phenomena and tourism drawcard. We are open to working with interested stakeholders on how to achieve protection of the crabs and the marine environment in which they live.

There are many different ways in which to value and experience the Spider Crabs – whether that is through appropriate harvesting or snorkelling, diving, photographing and the like. But these all need to be done thoughtfully and be carefully managed so that the future of this marine spectacle is not at risk.

As we await the outcome of the proposed fisheries notice consultation on the bag limit reduction, VNPA, as a supporter of the SOS Save Our Spider Crabs campaign, along with other groups and individuals, will continue to work with stakeholders to urge the Victorian Government to implement the best outcomes for the Spider Crabs and community. We all want to ensure the most enjoyable and long-lasting experience possible.


Read previous articles in past edition of Park Watch.

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