Cumulative selectivity benefits of increasing mesh size and using escape gaps in Australian Portunus armatus traps

Authors: 

Broadhurst, M.K., Smith, T.M., Millar, R.B., Hughes, B., Raoult, V., and Gaston, T.F.

Year: 

2019

Journal/Publisher Name: 

Fisheries Management and Ecology

Volume (Issue #): 

26(4)

Page #s: 

319-326

Contact information: 

Timothy M. Smith, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle, 10 Chittaway Dr, Ourimbah, NSW 2258, Australia. Email: Tim.M.Smith@newcastle.edu.au
Summary: 

The individual and cumulative effects of increasing mesh size and installing three escape gaps (36 × 120 mm) in collapsible‐netted round traps were assessed to address concerns associated with excessive discarding in an Australian portunid fishery. Compared to conventional traps of 56‐mm mesh throughout, those with the same mesh size and escape gaps caught significantly fewer (by 54%) undersized blue swimmer crabs, Portunus armatus, and yellowfin bream, Acanthopagrus australis (by 64%). Irrespective of escape gaps, simply increasing the mesh size to 75 mm did not significantly affect catches of undersized P. armatus, although 87% fewer A. australis were retained. Traps with both 75‐mm mesh and escape gaps maintained reductions of A. australis, but had a clear cumulative effect on P. armatus selection, retaining 84% fewer undersized individuals across a larger size at retention. The results support using escape gaps in existing conventional traps, but illustrate the need to configure the minimum legal mesh size to approach the desired target size of P. armatus as a precursor to maximizing trap selectivity.