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how stupid can you be?

December 21, 2010

Sometimes our collective stupidity leaves me breathless.

During our recent holiday on the coast we thought that we would mark the end of the first day with some local seafood and a glass of white wine. A quick stop showed we were not the only ones with that thought – only one blue swimmer crab left – but that was all we wanted. Home we went and, as is the custom, I started to clean the crab. When I turned it over I saw something I had never seen before – the underside of a female sand crab. (For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about and what the difference might be I have included the image below.)

Drawing of a blue swimmer crab

Blue Swimmer Crab (QLD DPI)

Being born and raised in Queensland by parents who love crabs of all sorts, I know that by law you can not take female crabs and that by logic you should not take female crabs.

But we were holidaying in New South Wales and a quick enquiry at a local bait and tackle shop revealed that over the border female crabs are fair game. Why was that the case I wondered aloud? The reason I was given was that apparently there were too many large female crabs and not enough mature males to mate with them. Think about that for a minute…

Too many large females (protected) + not enough large males (not protected) = a problem.

No argument there (although I suppose the nature of the problem depends on your perspective).

Solution proposed by New South Wales?

Eat the large females!

So following the logic we head towards …

Not enough large females + not enough large males = a very big problem.

Or am I the only one who can see that? In the newspaper this weekend was a piece on proposed fisheries closures. It opened with this:

Anglers fear moves to introduce licence fees and bans on fishing for snapper are based on dodgy science and scaremongering by green groups.

and then outlined the nature of the proposed closures:

Recreational fishers are up in arms over plans to ban the snapper catch along the Queensland coast between February 15 and March 31 next year.

All the usual prophesies of doom are then provided about how this will mean the end of all manner of businesses. Think about it though.

A six-week ban on just one fish species – snapper. Not a six-week ban on all fishing. Not even a ban on ever catching a snapper again. A brief targeted window of time to try to ensure the long-term sustainability of one small part of the ecosystem – for everybody. The fishing industry, you, me, our kids. Everybody.

Similar howls of complaint were heard when no-fish ‘green zones’ were established. People will go out of business!! The science is dodgy!!

The same article included this:

The CSIRO survey found there are now five times more legal-sized mud crabs in a green zone near the mouth of Logan River than outside it. And species seen more frequently in green zones include sweetlip, snapper and sharks and those observed more frequently outside zones are rock cod and tarwhine.

Five times more! On the basis of the information provided in the article that increase has occurred in under two years. In crude economic terms that is a return of >500% in just two years but the flow on effect of those increased populations will mean the return will be much much greater than that. (The CSIRO report indicated that the longer the green zone has been in place the more effective it is at protecting mud crabs as well as many fish species.)

How is it that people can believe that the answer to having not enough large male crabs is to allow the consumption of large female crabs? How is it that we can be so short-sighted to accept arguments for protecting the short-term incomes of people and corporations who operate unsustainable businesses?  Why is it that the mantra of continuous economic growth goes on unquestioned?

How stupid can we be?


Sustainable fisheries seem to be topical at the moment. This recent program on Radio National’s The National Interest looks at both sides of the argument. The Australian Marine Conservation Society has released a sustainable seafood guide that aims to help consumers make more informed choices.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. seona permalink
    December 22, 2010 9:13 pm

    Ah Pauly, humans and logic don’t really meld well…Sorry I missed you. Have a wonderful Christmas, Seona

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