Inappropriate fishery regulations can harm fisheries by unnecessarily retarding stock rebuilding. While the initial setting of size limits in the giant crab fishery was based on the precautionary principle and the best available data, the market preference for small crabs was not anticipated and therefore not considered when size limits were set. Any changes to fishery controls, particularly in a fishery where catch rates appear to be stabilising, must be approached with caution. Given that the emphasis of size limits has, appropriately, been on preserving the fertility of crab stocks, it would be inappropriate to adjust size limits without first re-evaluating the reproductive status of the population. This is particularly important as we know that the way the fishery is currently structured has resulted in an unbalanced harvesting of males and females. Biological data gathered during this process will significantly improve the predictive capability of the assessment model with respect to egg production.
This proposal addresses three of the 12 research and development priorities for wild fisheries outlined in the Tasmanian Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Strategic Plan (2005-2008). It addresses the priority 'Management options/assessment' by seeking to optimise management measures for the giant crab fishery, the priority of 'Resource assessment & monitoring' by providing information on the current reproductive status of the giant crab population, and the priority area 'impacts of fishing' by comparing current reproductive parameters with that of the population prior to the rapid expansion of this fishery.