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Commercial Mud Crab (Scylla serrata) Fishery Information

Mud crabs are harvested by professional fishers. Commercial crab fishers may travel more than 100km to set their pots. Commercial mudcrab fishery information

Commercial Fishing for Mud Crabs:

map showing where mudcrabs are found in australiaThere are four species of mud crab, Scylla serrata, S. tranquebarica, S. paramamosain and S. olivacea that are the focus of both commercial fisheries and aquaculture production throughout their distribution. They are among the most valuable crab species in the world, with most of the commercial production sent as live product to markets.

Mud crabs are harvested by professional fishers throughout the Queensland coast from Southport to Karumba, and generate almost $10 million in wharf value to the States economy. Mud crabs are sold mostly as an icon species to the tourist and restaurant trade.

Commercial Mud Crab Fishery in the Northern Territory
The Mud Crab Fishery is one of the key Northern Territory (NT) wild harvest fisheries. The giant mud crab (Scylla serrata) accounts for 99% of the catch, while the orange mud crab (S. olivacea) constitutes the remainder. There is little byproduct and bycatch in this fishery due to the highly selective gear used to target large mud crabs.

The fishery has been assessed by the Australian Government’s Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) against the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries. Full export exempt accreditation has subsequently been issued under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The assessment demonstrated that the fishery is managed in a manner that does not lead to over-fishing, and that fishing operations have minimal impact on the structure, productivity, function and biological diversity of the ecosystem. The fishery is due for reassessment in 2012.

CAAB (Codes for Australian Aquatic Biota) Code for Mud Crab: 28 911902

live mud crab, cooked mud crab, Scylla serrata, mangrove crab, green crab

Fishing Method

The main apparatus used by commercial fishers to catch mud crabs and blue swimmer crabs are wire-mesh crab pots and trawl-mesh (nylon) crab pots.

The pots are set on the bottom, generally in estuarine or near-shore areas for mud crabs and near-shore and offshore areas for blue swimmer crabs.

Fishers operating in offshore waters usually set their gear in trotlines of about 10 pots per line. The trotline consists of pots attached to each other with a buoy set at one end of the line and a flagged buoy set at the other end.

The fisher usually checks them daily or on each rising tide, hauling them by hand-hydraulic winch, removing the catch, and then rebaiting and resetting them.

Many commercial crab fishers work from remote, rudimentary land-based camps, although some access remote waters using mother-ships or permanently-moored pontoons. Crabbers may travel more than 100 km to set their pots and then stay in the same area for a number of days before returning to their base to unload the catch.

Crab pots are baited with fresh meat or fish and set in estuarine and coastal waters. Pots must have a float (with the unit number inscribed) attached and must not exceed 0.5 m³ in volume or 1 m in any dimension. Pots are generally checked on each daylight high tide. However, if tides and other conditions are favourable, they may also be checked again at night.

Pots are manually hauled into dinghies and each crab is checked to ensure that it is above the minimum legal size, not berried (i.e. with eggs attached) and is commercially suitable. The last condition is an industry initiative to ensure that no empty (i.e. low meat content) mud crabs are harvested. This condition helps maintain the reputation and high market value of NT mud crabs and reduces mortality during transport.

Both male and female mud crabs can be retained in the NT. The minimum legal size (MLS) - measured across the widest part of the carapace - for commercially harvested mud crabs was increased from 13 cm to 14 cm for males and from 14 cm to 15 cm for females in May 2006.

Scientific Name Scylla serrata
Location WA, NT, QLD, NSW
Season All year round
Size To 3.5 kg
Australian Species Code 00 702001
Taste, Texture Delicate sweet taste.  Medium to firm texture.

Estuary General Fishery in NSW
The Estuary General Fishery is a diverse multi-species multi-method fishery that may operate in 76 of the NSW's estuarine systems. It is the most diverse commercial fishery in NSW and comprises approximately 600 fishing businesses authorised to utilise 17 types of fishing gear. This fishery is a significant contributor to regional and state economies providing high quality seafood and bait to the community.

The Fishery includes all forms of commercial estuarine fishing (other than estuary prawn trawling which comprises the Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery) in addition to the gathering of pipis and beachworms from ocean beaches. The most frequently used fishing methods are mesh and haul netting. Other methods used include trapping, hand-lining and hand-gathering.

On average, the 10 species that make up over 80% of landings by weight are sea mullet (Mugil cephalus) 40%, luderick (Girella tricuspidata) 8%, yellowfin bream (Acanthopagrus australis) 8%, school prawn (Metapenaeus macleayi) 5%, blue swimmer crab (Portunus pelagicus) 4%, dusky flathead (Platycephalus fuscus) 4%, sand whiting (Sillago ciliata) 3%, pipi (Donax deltoides) 3%, mud crab (Scylla serrata) 3% and silver biddy (Gerres subfasciatus) 2%


Video from Queensland Seafood showing the Mud Crab Fishery:

Northern Territory, Australia Mud Crab Commercial Fishery

Mud Crabs are the only crab species in the Northern Territory (Australia) harvested for sale. The two main types of Mud Crabs found in Northern Territory waters are the Giant Mud Crab, Scylla serrata, which make up over 99% of the catch from all sectors, and the Orange Mud Crab, S. olivacea, which make up the remainder.

The fishery is dependent on substantial wet season rains for a good crab season. Heavy runoff rain flushes nutrients from the land and washes it into the rivers where it feeds tiny animals, which are in turn eaten by bigger fish which are then eaten by Mud Crabs. If there is not enough rain then there is not enough food for the crab and catch numbers drop.

The amount of byproduct or bycatch in the fishery is minimal due to the highly selective gear used to target large Mud Crabs. Many crabbers install escape holes in their pots to allow undersize crabs to escape. This not only prevents the smaller crabs being attacked by large crabs already in the pot, it also reduces the amount of sorting the crabber needs to do when emptying the pots.

To assist in maintaining a sustainable fishery, size restrictions are in place for both male and female crabs, in addition to a ban on taking females with eggs. Commercially Unsuitable Crabs or CUCs (“empty” crabs or those with a low meat content) are not allowed to be taken. This reduces mortality during transport and helps maintain the reputation and high market value of Northern Territory Mud Crabs.

Restricted bait nets catch a variety of inshore fish species which can only be used for bait, not for retail purposes. Restrictions on where and how the nets may be used reduce the risk of bycatch or interactions with protected species.

The Northern Territory Code of Practice for the Mud Crab Fishery outlines the best methods to handle, store and transport mud crabs from point of capture to point of sale.


- Confirm legal size and not berried as per regulations

- Confirm the crab is not a commercially unsuitable crab (CUC). Newly moulted crabs are prone to stress and will not tolerate transport and temperature changes. CUCs returned to the water will become “A” grade crabs within weeks

- Bury or dispose of responsibly any contaminated, badly damaged, deformed, diseased or parasitic (loxi) crab

- Tie crab’s claws hard against the body to restrict movement as soon as possible. This will minimise the crab’s stress, aggression and the possibility of damage to other crabs and handlers

- Hold in clean, damp, insect proof, hessian-lined and covered crates to limit the disturbance, minimise moisture loss and stop direct breeze and sunlight affecting the crabs

- Avoid direct wind/breeze. Holding crabs in drafts during transport and storage will cause mortalities. Air-conditioning will also dry crabs out, but may be required to avoid very high temperatures

- Keep quiet. Limit any loud noises, vibration and impacts as these will cause increased stress levels in the crab

- Disturb as little as possible. Each time you disturb the crab you are increasing stress levels in the crab

- Handle gently. Minimise the handling movements and be careful when legs are stuck in baskets or caught on another crab. Pulling on a leg that is stuck can cause bleeding and increases the risk of mortality


The mud crab (Scylla serrata) is a promising aquaculture species due to its fast growth and good market acceptability and price. A mud crab aquaculture operation requires significant capital input for both the breeding and grow-out phases.

Mud crab farming requires expertise in husbandry of crustaceans, water quality control, pond management, nutrition, processing and marketing.

Mud crabs have good export potential. The development of new mud crab products, both for domestic and overseas markets, also creates opportunities for farmers. One of these new products is soft-shell crab (i.e. crabs that are harvested when they have just completed moulting). Commercial production of soft-shell crabs has already commenced for blue swimmer crabs (Portunus pelagicus) where the crabs are farmed in a similar manner to mud crabs prior to being harvested for soft-shell production. The processing technologies used for this crab species also apply to mud crab soft-shell production.

Mud Crab Farming Methods
Mud Crabs can be raised in two systems - Grow out farming and fattening systems.
Here's a page from Roy's Farm about Mud Crab Farming. Lots of facts and information about the two types of crab farming systems, water quality, feeding and harvesting.

Exporters of Mud Crabs  |  Importers of Mud Crabs  |  Processors of Mud Crabs  |
Wholesale Suppliers of Mud Crabs  |  Seafood Agents for Mud Crabs  | 

See Also:   Crab,   3 Spot Crab,    Blue Swimming Crab,    Brown Crab,   Common Swimming Crab,   Dungeness Crab,   Jonah Crab,   King Crab,   Sea Crab,   Snow Crab,   Softshell Crab,   Spanner Crab,   Spider Crab,   Stone Crab,   Velvet Crab,   Canned Crabmeat


See Also:
Mud Crab Photos & Information
Catching Mud Crabs
Cooking Mud Crab and Crab Recipes
Mud Crab (Scylla serrata) Commercial Fisheries
Mud Crab Pictures & Photos


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