Fishers dismiss jenny plan
A PROPOSED relaxation of restrictions protecting female mud crabs has attracted criticism from both marine biologists and recreational fishers.
It has been illegal to take the females of the species - commonly known as jennies - since the 1890s, when restrictions were put in place to ensure future stocks.
Fisheries minister Craig Wallace has called for the public to make submissions to the State Government on a relaxation of the restrictions.
Mr Wallace said the 120-year-old ban was believed by many to have created breeding problems because of a disparity in the numbers of male mud crabs, or bucks, and jennies.
"Fishers have only been allowed to catch male muddies, so bucks rarely grow larger than 15cm before they are caught," he said.
"Fishing experts tell me that once females grow to more than 16cm, they can no longer breed as they find it difficult to mate with smaller males."
James Cook University marine biologist Orpha Bellwood said research was inconclusive on the effect of size on the mating habits of mud crabs.
"They are a very popular species and these restrictions were introduced to protect their numbers," she said.
"There is no justification for a change to the rule and, if the restrictions were relaxed, it would have the potential to seriously harm the species."
David Bateman, deputy chairman of recreational fishing body Sunfish, said support for the proposal was limited in both recreational and commercial fishing circles.
"Fishers have unanimously rejected the proposal and there has only been conditional support from commercial crabbers," he said.
"To raise it again is just ignoring the wishes of the majority to benefit the short-sighted greedy wishes of a few commercially oriented-operators."
Commercial mud crabber Mick Stevens, who operates from Bundaberg, Agnes Water and 1770, said a relaxation of the restriction would threaten the longevity of the industry.
"The restrictions have worked well and they've been in place for years," he said.
"We don't want to cut our own throats and upset the balance."