LETTER: What about the changes for crabbing?
THERE must be a whiff of more fishing net licence buyback money in the air. We've started hearing from the fishing industry and their apologists again.
This time however we're hearing from Mr Harris and Joanne instead of David. It's good that the new president of the Queensland Industry Seafood Association (Mr Harris) has finally surfaced in our region. He might be able to shed some light on the troubles facing the mud crab industry.
A national grading standard for live mud crabs was adopted in 2013. It contained a colourful flow-chart and included 12 rejection points during the grading process. Each rejection point meant returning the crab to the water. There were three grading standards.
There's gold in them - the muddies in Sydney and Melbourne at up to $100 retail a kilo and even more gold if the grading standards could be reduced.
Wave the magic crabbing industry wand and voila! There's a Federal Government grant of $122,405 for the Queensland Department of Fisheries and Agriculture to a re-examine those national grading standards with a stated objective "to increase profitability across industry through equity of grading practices and reduced product downgrades and wastage”. That's bureaucrat-speak for reduce the grading standards, take more crabs and increase profits. Under this new 2016 watered-down but still colourful flow chart there are now only five reject points to return mud crabs to the water instead of the previous 12. Also a new lower standard of no-category is introduced for sale at a reduced price. A mud crab needs to be either dead or at death's door to be rejected under these new standards.
So what does all this bureaucratic shuffling mean to recreational and commercial crabbers in the good old Fitzroy? Well, for a starter there'll be fewer mud crabs released by commercials as some currently commendably do to sustain stocks. If they continue that practice, then other visiting pro crabbers will soon clean the lower grades out quickly and it appears that's happening already.
There's an uneasy truce between commercial crabbers and recreational fishermen in the CQ region. Meanwhile, Mr Harris and his entourage seem more concerned with sniping away at efforts to ensure that the local community benefits from the popular net-free zone decision.