Project number: 2018-177
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $101,563.00
Principal Investigator: Chris E. Calogeras
Organisation: C-AID Consultants
Project start/end date: 28 Feb 2020 - 28 Jan 2021


Australian mud crab fisheries are managed across four jurisdictions (WA, NT, Qld, NSW) with Industry having little cross-jurisdictional connectivity, and agencies appearing to generally operate in isolation, even though it is a national market.

Industry is undergoing significant structural and management changes. This project is critical for the Australian industry's future as it navigates these changes and seeks to optimise outcomes.

This projects genesis came when mud crab leaders from key jurisdictions caught up by phone, discussing the status of individual fisheries. It was apparent that as a product going into a national market there were many common issues to resolve. Although high-quality work is undertaken across jurisdictions; from an industry perspective R&D, monitoring and management approaches didn’t appear coordinated enough, with no national marketing plan.

It became clear that, although a $48+M/annum national market, connectivity is poor and improved outcomes can be achieved through a collaborative approach across jurisdictions. It was agreed, this approach may provide whole of industry benefits via a strategic workshop that includes licensees/quota holders, fishers, supply chain partners and agencies to increase knowledge, foster sustainable economic, environmental and social benefits.

Initial areas identified included:

• Data - Elogs, VMS, Industry science
• Research – uncoordinated nationally, modelling consistency, ecological impacts
• Succession – a plan allow entry for new people in a more structured environment, NT Indigenous involvement etc
• Quota Transition/structural changes – e.g. ownership structures, impacts, opportunities, issue, improved holding/storage to optimise product value
• Regulations – possible harmonisation/code development etc
• Biosecurity
• Product identification
• Community support/licence
• Markets and logistic opportunities
• National RD&E priorities.

There has been unanimous support across jurisdictions for this project (see attachment).

The industry doesn’t have logistical coordination at this time to coordinate this, or resources to carry it out, and would rely on FRDC funds and significant industry and agency in-kind.


1. Share experiences and understandings to identify issues and opportunities for collaborative approaches across the industry and agencies
2. Build industry cohesion and capacity through development of a national industry plan and communication network.

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-9871427-8-8
Author: Dr Chris Calogeras and Dr Rik Buckworth
Final Report • 26.15 MB


Australian mud crab fisheries extend from northern Western Australia (WA) across the Northern Territory (NT) and Queensland (Qld) through to northern New South Wales (NSW) and are managed across the four jurisdictions. The product from each jurisdiction is sold into a larger common market valued at around $50M/annum1, mainly within Australia, but also into a number of international markets.
This project’s genesis came when mud crab Industry leaders from key jurisdictions caught up by phone, discussing the status of individual jurisdiction’s fisheries. To them it became apparent that they were catching the same species, Scylla serrata and S. olivacea, (which are called mud crabs), and were all supplying the same markets, and therefore there were many common issues to resolve.
It was noted there was no formal cross-jurisdictional connectivity and it was felt that there could be improved outcomes achieved through a collaborative approach across jurisdictions. This was particularly so as, after a number of years of relative status quo in the Australian fisheries, recent years had seen significant structural and management changes that will lead/have led to operational changes in the fishery landscape. 
A national workshop was considered the optimal mechanism to bring Industry, and importantly, Agencies, together, to develop a common purpose. Through an approach where participants learn from each other and build relationships, Industry leaders believed that a coordinated approach to building the Industry’s future would lead to improved outcomes from an operational, economic, ecological, social and regulatory perspective. Each major Industry group and relevant Agency in Australia was contacted and provided unanimous support for this approach.
Like many projects that were planned for this period (2020) the impacts and uncertainty caused by COVID restrictions led to significant delays, and the project value was questioned due to the time from its genesis to its potential completion. This view was tested with Industry and Agency participants who unanimously supported the holding of a face-to-face workshop to address the project’s objectives. As such, the workshop was deferred from 2020 until it was eventually held in late 2022.
It was apparent that there is considerable opportunity to improve the future for the Australian mud crab industry on several fronts. Foremost among these is to develop a coordinated direction based on the National Plan, developed as the workshop summary (Attachment 3), to address the seven key investment areas identified. This will require communication within and between sectors.
A major recommendation was to form a Working Group which will have interim responsibility for progressing the National Plan, and to gauge the appetite to move to a more formalised arrangement for the Industry to coordinate its activities nationally. What was also clear was that a process where diverse participants learn from each other and build relationships can support a coordinated approach to building the Industry’s future from an operational, economic, social and regulatory perspective. It was noted that in the short term
a standalone Industry approach would most likely fail, and that Agency involvement in the process was a critical component of generating agreed, sustainable and positive outcomes.
In addition, it is clear that many of the key areas that require investment are not solely the remit of the Australian mud crab industry. A process to ensure that sectoral and regional needs can be amalgamated and coordinated to undertake high level and nationally focussed Research and Development (R&D) could lead to positive outcomes for many fisheries around Australia, particularly if there were a two way feedback process to share information (positive and negative) of new R&D and practices (i.e. impacts of climate, better understanding of ecological, weather and climate processes, capacity and capability, communications etc).

Related research


Developing a Kimberley Aboriginal Mud Crab Fishery

1. Determine the biology and distribution of mud crab species (Scylla serrata and S. olivacea) in King Sound and Cambridge Gulf areas of the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) WA

Assessment of the interactive effects of climate change, floods and discard stress on the commercially important Mud Crab (Scylla serrata) and Blue Swimmer Crab (Portunus armatus) - postgraduate

1. Provide the opportunity for a post-graduate research student to work with industry and managers, gain exposure to stakeholder’s perspectives on the issue and undertake high-quality research that results in the production of scientific outputs.
Southern Cross University (SCU) National Marine Science Centre