CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > Marine & Freshwater Research   
Marine & Freshwater Research
Journal Banner
  Advances in the Aquatic Sciences
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Board
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Research Fronts
Sample Issue
For Authors
General Information
Instructions to Authors
Submit Article
Open Access
For Referees
General Information
Review an Article
Referee Guidelines
Annual Referee Index
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with us
blank image
facebook twitter youtube


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 63(11)

Biology and management of a multi-sector blue swimmer crab fishery in a subtropical embayment – Shark Bay, Western Australia

David Harris A B , Danielle Johnston A , Errol Sporer A , Mervi Kangas A , Nieves Felipe A and Nick Caputi A

A Western Australian Fisheries and Marine Research Laboratories, Department of Fisheries, Government of Western Australia, PO Box 20, North Beach, WA 6920, Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email: David.Harris@fish.wa.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 63(11) 1165-1179 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF12038
Submitted: 6 February 2012  Accepted: 13 September 2012   Published: 26 November 2012

PDF (1.5 MB) $25
 Export Citation

Stock assessments to support sustainable management in data-limited fisheries present a challenge to fisheries scientists and managers. This is the case with the Shark Bay Crab Fishery, which has expanded rapidly in the past 10 years, to become Australia’s highest-producing blue swimmer crab fishery. The resource is harvested commercially by two sectors, the Shark Bay crab trap and trawl fisheries (combined catch of ~800 t), as well as supporting a small but important recreational fishery. Commercial catch and effort data have been collected for the fishery since the early 1980s, commercial trap-monitoring data since 1999, and fishery-independent trawl-survey data since 2001. There is conflicting evidence on the impact that significant increases in catch and effort over the past decade has made on this fishery, such as legal catch rates remaining relatively constant, but declines occurring in the abundance of large crabs. There has also been concern over the level of latent effort in the fishery, with the trap sector currently operating at 70–80% of its potential effort and the capacity for further increases in crab landings by the trawl fleet. Since July 2011, the relative abundance of all size classes of crabs declined significantly. The reasons for this unexpected decline are yet to be understood, but are likely to be linked to adverse environmental extremes (flooding and very warm water temperatures) during the summer of 2010–2011, associated with a very strong La Niňa event. Preliminary assessment indicated that the spawning stock that led to the low recruitment was within historic ranges. The current challenge for the research and management of this fishery is to clarify the causes for this recent decline, and establish suitable biological indicators that will determine the appropriate level of catch and harvest strategy to ensure the future sustainability of the stock.

Additional keywords: crab biology, data-limited fishery, Portunus armatus, preliminary stock assessment, recruitment decline, sustainable catch levels.


Aguilar, R., Hines, H., Wolcott, T. G., Wolcott, D. L., Kramer, M. A., and Lipcius, R. N. (2005). The timing and route of movement and migration of post-copulatory female blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, from the upper Chesapeake Bay. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 319, 117–128.
CrossRef |

Bellchambers, L., and de Lestang, S. (2005). Selectivity of different gear types for sampling the blue swimmer crab, Portunus pelagicus L. Fisheries Research 73, 21–27.
CrossRef |

Bellchambers, L., and Smith, K. (2005). Stock assessment of blue swimmer crabs, Portunus pelagicus in Shark Bay, Western Australia. In ‘Development of Stock Allocation and Assessment Techniques in Western Australia Blue Swimmer Crab Fisheries. FRDC Project No. 2001/068’. (Eds L. Bellchambers, N. Sumner and R. Melville-Smith.) pp. 98–168. (Department of Fisheries, Western Australia, Research Division: Hillarys, WA.)

Campbell, C. (1997). Issues affecting Western Australia’s inshore crab fishery. Fisheries Management Paper, 108, Fisheries WA, Perth.

de Lestang, S., Hall, N. G., and Potter, I. C. (2003). Reproductive biology of the blue swimmer crab, Portunus pelagicus (Decapoda: Portunidae) in five water bodies on the west coast of Australia. Fish Bulletin 101, 745–757.

de Lestang, S., Bellchambers, L. M., Caputi, N., Thomson, A. W., Pember, M. B., Johnston, D. J., and Harris, D. C. (2010). Stock–recruitment–environment relationship in a Portunus pelagicus fishery in Western Australia. In ‘Biology and Management of Exploited Crab Populations under Climate Change’. (Eds G. H. Kruse, G. L. Eckert, R. J. Foy, R. N. Lipcius, B. Sainte-Marie, D. L. Stram and D. Woodby.) pp. 443–460. (Alaska Sea Grant, University of Alaska: Fairbanks, AK.)

Dixon, C. D., Rodgers, G. G., and Hooper, G. E. (2012). Blue Crab (Portunus armatus) Fishery 2010/11. Fishery assessment report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. SARDI Publication No. F2007/000729-8. SARDI Research Report Series No. 604. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide.

Francesconi, K., and Clayton, D. (1996). Shark Bay: management paper for fish resources. Fisheries Management Paper No. 91. Department of Fisheries, Perth.

Hall, N. G., and Penn, J. W. (1979). Preliminary assessment of effective effort in a two species trawl fishery for penaeid prawns in Shark Bay, Western Australia. Rapports et Proces-Verbaux des Reunions – Conseil International pour L’Exploration de la Mer 175, 147–154.

Hines, A. H., Jivoff, P. R., Bushmann, P. J., van Montfrans, J., Reed, S. A., Wolcott, D. L., and Wolcott, T. G. (2003). Evidence for sperm limitation in the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus. Bulletin of Marine Science 72, 287–310.

Ingles, J. A., and Bkaum, E. (1989). Reproduction and larval ecology of the blue swimming crab Portunus pelagicus in Ragay Gulf, Philippines. Internationale Revue der gesamten Hydrobiologie und Hydrographie 74, 471–490.
CrossRef |

Johnston, D., and Harris, D. (2011). West Coast blue swimmer crab fishery status report. In ‘State of the Fisheries Report 2009/10’. (Eds W. J. Fletcher and K.Santoro.) pp. 39–45. (Department of Fisheries, Perth.)

Johnston, D., Harris, D., Caputi, N., and Thomson, A. (2011a). Decline of a blue swimmer crab (Portunus pelagicus) fishery in Western Australia – History, contributing factors and future management strategy. Fisheries Research 109, 119–130.
CrossRef |

Johnston, D., Harris, D., Caputi, N., de Lestang, S., and Thomson, A. (2011b). Status of the Cockburn Sound Crab Fishery. DIBF final report. Fisheries Research Report No. 219. Department of Fisheries, Perth.

Joll, L. M., and Penn, J. W. (1990). The application of high-resolution navigation systems to Leslie-Delury depletion experiments for the measurement of trawl efficiency under open-sea conditions. Fisheries Research 9, 41–55.

Kangas, M. I. (2000). Synopsis of the biology and exploitation of the blue swimmer crab, Portunus pelagicus Linnaeus. Fisheries Research Report No. 121. Department of Fisheries, Perth.

Kumar, M. S., Xiao, Y. S., Venema, S., and Hooper, G. (2003). Reproductive cycle of the blue swimmer crab, Portunus pelagicus, off southern Australia. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 83, 983–994.
CrossRef |

Lai, J., Ng, P. K. L., and Davie, P. J. F. (2010). A revision of the Portunus pelagicus species complex (Crustacea: Brachyura: Portunidae) with the recognition of four species. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 58, 199–237.

Miller, T. J., Wilberg, M. J., Colton, A. R., Davis, G. R., Sharov, A., Lipcius, R. N., Ralph, G. M., Johnson, E. G., and Kaufman, A. G. (2011). Stock assessment of blue crab in Chesapeake Bay 2011: final assessment report. Technical Report Series no. TS-614-11. University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge, MD.

Montaño Ferrer, O. J. (1997). Effectiveness of two pots and other factors for harvesting hard blue crabs Callinectes sapidus in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. Ciencia 5, 111–118.

Nahas, E. L., Pattiaratchi, C. B., and Ivey, G. N. (2005). Processes controlling the position of frontal systems in Shark Bay, Western Australia. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 65, 463–474.

Pearce, A., Lenanton, R., Jackson, G., Moore, J., Feng, M., and Gaughan, D. (2011). The ‘marine heat wave’ off Western Australia during the summer of 2010/11. Fisheries Research Report No. 222. Department of Fisheries, Perth.

Pollock, D. E. (1995). Changes in maturation ages and sizes in crustacean and fish populations. South African Journal of Marine Science 15, 99–103.
CrossRef |

Potter, I. C., and de Lestang, S. (2000). The biology of the blue swimmer crab Portunus pelagicus in the Leschenault Estuary and Koombana Bay in south-western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 83, 443–458.

Potter, I. C., de Lestang, S., and Melville Smith, R. (2001). The collection of biological data required for management of the blue swimmer crab fishery in the central and lower west coasts of Australia. FRDC Project No. 97/137, Murdoch University Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research, Murdoch, WA.

Sumner, N.R. and Malseed, B.E. (2002). Quantification of changes in recreational catch and effort on inner Shark Bay snapper species following implementation of responsive management changes. FRDC report 2000/139. Department of Fisheries, Western Australia, Research Division, North Beach, WA.

Sumner, N. R., Williamson, P. C., and Malseed, B. E. (2002). A 12-month survey of recreational fishing in the Gascoyne bioregion of WA during 1998/99. Fisheries Research Report No. 139. Department of Fisheries, Perth.

Sumpton, W. D., Potter, M. A., and Smith, G. S. (1994). The biology of the commercial sand crab Portunus pelagicus L. In a subtropical Australian embayment. Asian Fisheries Science 7, 103–113.

Sumpton, W., Gaddes, S., McLennan, M., Campbell, M., Tonks, M., Good, N., Hagedoorn, W., and Skilleter, G. (2003). Fisheries biology and assessment of the blue swimmer crab (Portunus pelagicus) in Queensland. Industries Project Series, Project no. 98/117. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.

Thomson, J. M. (1951). Catch composition of the sand crab fishery in Moreton Bay. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 2, 237–244.
CrossRef |

Wetzel, C. R., and Punt, A. E. (2011). Performance of a fisheries catch-at-age model (stock synthesis) in data-limited situations. Marine and Freshwater Research 62, 927–936.
CrossRef |

Subscriber Login

Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2014