Effects of mesh size and escape gaps on discarding in an Australian giant mud crab (Scylla serrata) trap fishery

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Abstract

In response to concerns over excessive discarding from Australian recreational round traps (with four funnel entrances) used to target giant mud crabs, Scylla serrata, an experiment was done to assess the independent and cumulative utility of paired, bottom-located horizontal escape gaps (46×120 mm) and increasing mesh size (from 51 to 101 mm). Compared to conventional traps comprising 51-mm mesh throughout, those with the same mesh size and escape gaps caught significantly fewer (by 95%) undersize ( < 85 mm carapace length - CL) crabs while maintaining legal catches. Traps made from 101-mm mesh (but with the same funnel entrances as conventional designs) and with and without escape gaps similarly retained fewer undersize crabs and also yellowfin bream Acanthopagrus australis (the key bycatch species) by up to 94%, but there were concomitant reductions in fishing power for legal sizes of S. serrata. Although there were no immediate mortalities among any discarded crabs, there was a greater bias towards wounding among post molts than late inter-molts and less damage to individuals in the 101-mm conventional than 51-mm conventional traps (without escape gaps). The results support retrospectively fitting escape gaps in conventional S. serrata traps as a means for reducing discarding, but additional work is required to determine appropriate mesh sizes/configurations that maximize species and size selectivity. © 2014 Broadhurst et al.

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Broadhurst, M. K., Butcher, P. A., & Cullis, B. R. (2014). Effects of mesh size and escape gaps on discarding in an Australian giant mud crab (Scylla serrata) trap fishery. PLoS ONE, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106414

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