Mud crabs are at the centre of a debate over fishing rules in the Clarence River.
Mud crabs are at the centre of a debate over fishing rules in the Clarence River.

DPI clams up over rule change

DESPITE significant public interest in the impact of crab trapping in the upper Clarence river, there is uncertainty about the science behind the proposal.

Since the Department of Primary Industries released its consultation paper on mud crab trapping in the Clarence River, little has been revealed about what informed the proposal to allow trapping up river from Maclean Courthouse.

This has fuelled discord among recreational and commercial fishers, despite assurances from some crabbers that the changes posed no threat to local stocks.

A DPI spokesperson said the changes came from local fishers requesting removal of conditions.

But the DPI would neither explain why the ban existed nor confirm whether it has considered impacts of the proposed change.

“No decisions will be made on crab trapping in the Clarence River until all submissions have been given careful consideration,” the spokesperson said.

“The Commercial and Recreational Fishing NSW Advisory Councils will be discussing the proposed changes at their next meeting later this month.”

The rule change has sparked fierce debate in the fishing community and Shooters Farmers and Fishers Clarence spokesperson Daniel Spears was concerned the change would “decimate” local mud crab stocks.

“A number of professional fishermen are opposed to these changes as they can see that it will likely lead to the ultimate demise of the industry in the Clarence through overfishing,” Mr Spears said.

But last week a group of commercial crab fishers led by Troy Billin sought to quell fears by explaining the changes would have no effect on the overall number of traps or the quota.

“If it was going to damage the stocks and damage our fishery we would not be for it,” Mr Billin said.

“We rely on the crabs in this river to make our income day in, day out.”