Fisheries agents patrol WA crabbing hotspots catching criminals

Craig DuncanHarvey-Waroona Reporter
An illegal haul of crabs seized on the Swan River in December 2023.
Camera IconAn illegal haul of crabs seized on the Swan River in December 2023. Credit: Department of Primary Industires and Regional Development

The shores of Peel-Harvey Estuary were packed with empty boat trailers, families swimming on the shore and fishermen casting into the water at the long weekend.

Joining the crowds were Fisheries officers from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development who set out to cover the crabbing hotspots along the Peel-Harvey Estuary.

The weekend’s sting was part of Operation Lightwald, which has been running in the Peel-Harvey region and throughout the Swan and Canning rivers since the beginning of summer.

DPIRD director of regional compliance metropolitan Todd A’Vard said the operation had inspected more than 3600 crabbers since the start of December, with 103 infringement fines and 124 warning notices for offences in the Peel-Harvey region already.

“We have undertaken both land and boat-based patrols with high-profile mobile patrols as well as covert patrols focused on times of peak fishing activity,” he said.

DPIRD is using a boots-on-the-ground approach in Perth and Peel to boost compliance with fishing laws and help educate the public on responsible fishing practices.

Crabbing is one of the few fishing activities for which a licence is not required, with many taking to the Peel-Harvey Estuary to partake in the activity.

Though the Peel-Harvey Estuary is packed with crabs, it’s important to ensure they are all the legal catch size of 127mm measured from the tips of the spikes on the widest part of the shell.

crab, blue, live
Camera IconCrabbing season opened on December 1, 2023 and will close on August 31. Credit: DCChefAnna/Pixabay (user DCChefAnna)

There is also a daily bag limit of 10 crabs per person, and if there are two or more people on board a boat, the boat limit is 20 crabs.

Female crabs carrying eggs are also off-limits for crabbers and should be returned to the water immediately.

Fines up to $5000 can be given to anyone caught with undersized crabs or egg-carriers.

Crabbing season opens each year on December 1 and will close on August 31.

A DPIRD crabbing guide for blue swimmer crabs is available online.

Anyone who sees or suspects illegal crab fishing activity is urged to report it to DPIRD’s 24/7 FishWatch service on 1800 815 507 or online at Crime Stoppers by clicking on the FishWatch link.

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