SAVE THE ICONIC AUSTRALIAN SPIDER CRABS FROM RAMPANT OVERFISHING

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SAVE THE ICONIC AUSTRALIAN SPIDER CRABS FROM RAMPANT OVERFISHING

This petition calls for action in response to unprecedented overfishing of the Giant Spider Crab aggregation in 2019.


BACKGROUND:

The WORLD FAMOUS annual Giant Spider Crab aggregation is the largest known crab migration in the world. This natural and historic phenomenon takes place between the months of March - July each year in Port Phillip Bay and greater regions of Victoria, Australia. It has developed into an important and iconic event that thousands of people a year witness and has been featured on many documentaries across the globe including David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet’ series.

As such, these animals have a global following of enthusiasts. Each year nature lovers and film crews including the BBC eagerly await reports that ‘the crabs are in’ to travel from local, interstate and overseas destinations to experience the spider crabs. This mass moulting, and potential breeding event where the crabs moult their old, small shells to grow into their larger shells has become a major tourist drawcard for the Mornington Peninsula - one that is known, revered and celebrated across the globe.

THE PROBLEM:

Tens of thousands of crabs congregate in the shallows and under man-made piers which give them an added measure of safety from natural predators such as stingrays, small sharks, birds, octopus and other crabs during the most vulnerable stage of their lives. Whilst this grants the public easy access to view this incredible event, it also renders the crabs vulnerable to human predators. 

The 2019 spider crab season has been subject to unprecedented overfishing with crabs being dragged out of the ocean each day by the thousands. Not only is this distressing to thousands of spider crab enthusiasts - including locals, divers and members of the general public - but this gross overfishing over an extended period of time also potentially threatens the success of the spider crabs’ critical mass during the moulting season, their genetic diversity and possibly their capacity to recover in future generations. 

The crabs have evolved to congregate in this manner as they are incredibly vulnerable during their moulting phase. Their numbers afford them greater protection from natural predation, however they simply cannot compete with the relentless crab fishing currently taking place which exacerbates their vulnerability to further natural predation. As popularity of this Iconic event grows, crab fishing during the spider crab aggregation is increasing and is already having devastating effects in prominent locations like Blairgowrie Pier on the Mornington Peninsula. 

Rampant overfishing of aggregation events have been proven to cause long term devastation. Our southern Australian waters is also home to the Giant Cuttlefish Migration and fishing activities destroyed the Spencer Gulf breeding site populations by more than 90%, reducing numbers from the hundreds of thousands to less than 20,000. Fishing activities were banned in 2013 and since population numbers have increased back over 130,000. WE DO NOT NEED TO REPEAT OUR MISTAKES with the Giant Spider Crabs. If left unabated we fear the excessive crab fishing will destroy the natural phenomenon and economic value for future generations. 

THE SOLUTION:

We are asking the Victorian Fishing Authority and the Victorian government to enact new legislation, ratify changes to existing legislation and to enforce the following:

- Victorian government to immediately fund research into better management of the Giant Spider Crab population for the benefit of the local natural ecosystem and future generations. The Iconic Giant Spider Crabs are endemic to southern Australian waters and deserve appropriate stewardship.

- An immediate ban on Giant Spider Crab fishing during their critical aggregation period of March - July each year in order to offer an adequate measure of protection to this unique tourist drawcard species with high community value at the peak of their vulnerability

- Confirmation that the catch limit of Spider Crabs is 5 not 30 as currently legislated or alternatively a reduction to the catch limit from 30 to 5 per recreational fishing licence holder per day. We believe a catch limit of 30 is excessive and has had damaging effects in 2019 with severe depletion of numbers in prominent locations.

- An effective communication campaign supporting the incoming changes to educate the greater fishing community for compliance.

- Erect signage at prominent locations throughout the Port Phillip Bay and Bass Coastline regions to add a further level of guidance to ensure fishing licence holders comply with the new legislation.- Increase in patrols by Fisheries officers during the aggregation period to enforce the new legislation and issue penalty notices accordingly.

ACTION:

Please help us to ensure our Iconic Giant Spider Crab Migration phenomenon remains accessible to the general public and can continue each and every year without being subjected to rampant overfishing. Please SIGN and SHARE this petition.


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