Project number: 2022-138
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $736,621.00
Principal Investigator: Danielle Johnston
Organisation: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) WA
Project start/end date: 30 Jun 2023 - 29 Jun 2026


The commercial mud crab fishery in WA has yet to develop to its full potential due to a limited understanding of the mud crab resource, a lack of capacity, isolation from markets, and the logistical constraints of the remote and challenging environment of the Kimberley region. The development of Aboriginal fisheries is a high priority for DPIRD and FRDC, and this proposal to promote the Kimberley Aboriginal mud crab fishery aligns directly with this strategic objective. The project also addresses key priorities adopted by the WARAC and WAFIC, such as the development of Aboriginal and under-utilised fisheries in WA. The project represents a 2-way capacity building opportunity between Aboriginal people and DPIRD staff, with data generated during this project on species biology, spatial distribution and relative abundance informing future stock assessments to improve certainty around the sustainability of the WA mud crab resource. Specifically, the project will:

• use applicable and demonstrative scientific outcomes to develop participative management approaches for the Kimberley mud crab fishery that aim for fairness through prescribed fishery controls (trap allocations, harvest
strategies etc.) (Fair and secure access to aquatic resources).

• increase learning and sharing between Traditional Owners and DPIRD through identifying, documenting and promoting Aboriginal fisheries management systems and fishing practices. Identify a suitable working model for the
Indigenous mud crab fishery in the Kimberley which is culturally informed and reflects the relative abundance of the available mud crab resource. (Best practises and production systems).

• improve connection of Traditional Owners in the Kimberley region with mud crab fishing initiatives that promote economic opportunities (Growth for enduring prosperity).

• strengthen the association across Traditional Owner groups, commercial and recreational mud crab fishers, FRDC and DPIRD to maximise cooperative partnerships that promote greater inclusiveness, creative thought and solution
seeking to support the economic viability of the Kimberley mud crab fishery (A culture that is inclusive and forward thinking).

• promote relationships and communications between stakeholders and the Kimberley community through transparent decision-making tools and best practice fisheries management that ensures a fair distribution of economic and
societal benefits from the Kimberley mud crab resource (Community trust, respect and value).


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.
2. Determine the relative abundance of mud crabs within and between sites in King Sound and Cambridge Gulf across different habitat types (mangrove creeks vs channels vs mud flats) and tidal cycles (spring vs neap).
3. Transfer of mud crab commercial fishing methods, western scientific techniques, and traditional knowledge between Traditional Owners and DPIRD for future commercial application, through collaborative research surveys, DPIRD-led On-Country workshops and a related DPIRD-CRCNA Aboriginal Fishing and Aquaculture project (2022-24).

Related research


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