Crayfishing in Western Australia

14th January 2013

02:00am, 7th January, 2013, heading out cray fishing - warm fleece, socks, boots, long sleeve shirt, sandwiches - all packed.

Except the temperature is 24C??

Must be in Western Australia. Actually in Port Denison, near Dongara, one of the main ports for the crayfishing fleet of Western Australia.

Fishing in a short sleeved shirt and shorts is certainly a novelty for this fisherman from the North West Highlands of Scotland!

Skipper/owner Jeff Cockman kindly offered findafishingboat.com.au the opportunity to come out on the "Safari" on their final trip to meet current quota and I jumped at the chance to experience fishing in another hemisphere for a highly valued catch of crayfish.

Onboard along with two crewmen, Michael "Rooster" and Anthony Sawyer as well as Jeff's son Nathan and his nephew Jayden, who were out for the trip in their school summer holidays.

The "Safari" is a modern cray boat which was built in 2003 by Select Marine, Port Denison.

She is 70 feet or 19.2m, 20m OAL, planing, aluminium hull and cruises at 15.5 knots.

The fishing ground at this time of year is 40 miles offshore on the edge of the continental shelf.

Over 2 hours steaming to reach the ground and 325kg of crays to catch to fulfill the quota.

Pots are dropped in strings of two and are baited with fish heads.

The pots are emptied as they come up, into a holding tank.

They are then graded for size and transferred into the vivier tanks below the deck.

36 pots were lifted.

One hour and twenty minutes later the quota was met and we were steaming for home.

Back in port by 10:00am and the catch was weighed and received onto the conveyor at the Geraldton fishermen's Co-operative in Port Denison.

Straight into onshore holding tanks for delivery to the live export market.

Over 90% of the live landings are exported form Western Australia to China.

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Fisheries info: Fishing for crayfish(Panulirus cygnus) is the principal commercial fishery on the west coast of Western Australia and is Australia's most valuable single species wild capture fishery.

Operators have to purchase a licence depending on the number of pots worked and in addition are allocated a quota or catch limit which varies according to the location of the home port.

The fishery has strict controls in place including seasonal closures, minimum size requirements and a ban on catching breeding females.

The value of the crayfish landings in Western Australia is in the region of $200 million.

Most of the catch is exported to China and is marketed as rock lobster - a more familiar name.

Department of Fisheries, Western Australia - Rock Lobster information


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