Reprieve for NT’s smaller mud crabs

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 10th June 2010

A new device being trialled by the Northern Territory Government will allow undersized mud crabs to escape crab traps, leaving behind their larger cousins.

NT Fisheries Minister Kon Vatskalis said the Department of Resources will lead the $73,000 project funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation which aims to improve the fishing experience and protect the sustainability of crab fisheries.

“Reducing the number of crabs to be measured will be a major labour saving outcome for commercial operators, and also limit the mortality of undersized crabs returned to the water by both commercial and recreational fishers,” Vatskalis said.

“Crabs no longer need to be ‘Houdinis’ thanks to this unique little escape vent that should allow undersized crabs to get out of crab pots easily and without trauma,”

“The vents – designed here in the Territory – will also stop the bigger crabs eating the small or soft crabs, allow the smaller crabs to escape without being injured and cut down on sorting time,” he said.

NT Fisheries scientists have already measured the shell width, length and depth of over 400 mud crabs and have designed escape vents with Territory Laser Cutting for installation in both rigid wire mesh and collapsible mesh crab pots. NT Fisheries will provide a number of prototype escape vents to any commercial or recreational crabber who wishes to test them.

Vatskalis said the results of the current study would be of relevance to mud crab fisheries in other parts of Australia.