Corps de Crab Ballet!

Here they come, tap dancing down the channels and entering the port from the Karuah River, Tilligerry Creek and the Myall system. Blue swimmer crabs right on time for the annual school summer holidays. 

For those who are unfamiliar with crabbing there are a few rules and regulations that are unique to this system.

Three seasons ago it was decided to ban “witches hats” and wide mouth crab traps (over 36cm) from Port Stephens and other local areas. This decision was made as a response to the high number of turtles that were becoming entangled and drowning during the crab season.

Since the banning of those methods not one turtle death has been reported and the crab returns have been excellent. Currently, in Port Stephens, you are permitted, by NSW Fisheries, to set two traps and four drop nets (dilly pots). The drop nets are to be taken out of the water over night. These law changes have been accepted by the locals who are more than pleased with their catches of both blue swimmers and mud crabs.

Fisheries have indicated that local laws have now been in place long enough not to accept – “I didn’t know” – as an excuse. 

What I have difficulty understanding is why, if the rules that are in place in Port Stephens area are so successful, should they not be adopted throughout NSW? 

“Witches hats” are banned in every state in Australia other than NSW because they indiscriminately kill turtles and birds. Wake up NSW Fisheries. Why should we be the last to realise the problem?  We’re losing a precious resource.

Fishing writer, author and radio presenter John “Stinker” Clarke can be heard weekly, throughout NSW, on popular ABC Regional Radio fishing program “The Big Fish”. Check him out on or send an email to with your information and questions. 

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