Women cop huge fines for undersized crabs

Women cop huge fines for undersized crabs

All of the seized blue swimmer crabs were returned to the water.

Two women have been fined more than $16,800 for joint possession of 127 undersize blue swimmer crabs, among other offences.

A 27-year-old Brookdale woman and a 25-year-old from Champion Lakes were observed by Fisheries officers from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) fishing for crabs in the Peel Harvey Estuary near Falcon on 11 December, 2021.

The younger woman involved in the Saturday evening crabbing was holding a blue esky containing 66 blue swimmer crabs, of which 65 measured under 127mm. A blue swimmer crab with a carapace length of less than 127mm is categorised as a Totally Protected Fish.

DPIRD officers also located a plastic bag with another 62 undersize blue swimmer crabs under a parked vehicle registered to the 25-year-old. Those crabs ranged in carapace length between 66mm and 124mm.

Mandurah Court was told the crabs in the blue esky ranged in carapace length between 61 and 132mm, but only one of them was legal size. In total, 128 blue swimmer crabs were seized, measured, and then released back into the estuary.

It is an offence to be in possession of undersize blue swimmer crabs, and to take more than the daily bag limit of 10 blue swimmer crabs per person per day.

When requested to provide their names, principal places of residence and dates of birth, both women gave false information to the DPIRD officers.

The younger woman also failed to hand over her mobile phone, which then had to be seized resulting in a further charge of obstruction attracting an $800 fine.

Last Tuesday (8 August) the 25-year-old was ordered to pay fines for three offences, an additional penalty of $6,350 related to the crabs involved in the joint possession offence, and court costs. In all she was order by the magistrate to pay $8,814.30.

The 27-year-old woman from Brookdale was last month given the same additional penalty as her co-offender, plus two fines and costs for a total court bill of $8,014.30 for her offences and the false information that she gave to the officers.

“At the centre of this case though are the 127 undersize blue swimmers that were returned to the water to reach legal size and be fished another day,” DPIRD Director Regional Compliance Metro Todd A’Vard said.

“Fishers need to be aware that in early summer, when the fishery reopens after the autumn breeding closure, there is a high proportion of small crabs, so it’s very important that crabbers measure each blue swimmer they catch and return it promptly to the water if it’s smaller than the minimum size limit that applies before they continue fishing.”