WHILE tonnage of crabs taken by commercial operators has fluctuated in the last 10 years, they have been working harder for it and tonnage is well off the 2011 peak.
According to Queensland Fisheries, the number of crabs caught by commercial operators has fluctuated because of weather patterns.
The tonnage of crabs caught increased steadily between 2009 and 2011 to a high of 272.5 tonnes a year, but since then it has been in decline.
But the number of days at work has increased substantially, despite a small increase in the number of licences issued in the region.
There are currently 22 blue swimmer crab licences and 74 mud crab licences in the area between St Lawrence and Bowen.
That's not much change from a decade ago when there were 24 blue swimmer crab licences, and 63 mud crab licences in the same area.
The biggest increase has been in the number of days worked. According to the figures, in 2006 crabbers worked 4595 days while in 2016 crabbers worked 6711 days in the year.
That's gone from an average of 72 days a year per mud crab licence in 2006 to 90 days last year.
Catch data from 2006 to 2016 between St Lawrence and Bowen
A Queensland Fisheries spokesperson said the catch had varied in the last decade. But the trend had not increased in line with the hours worked.
"The catch of mud crab has also varied over the last decade, ranging from 142 to 272 tonnes,” the spokesperson said.
"The key influence is rainfall - when there is high rainfall, catch rates are high; where there is low rainfall catch rates are low.
"Data for 2016 is undergoing validation but a total catch of 177.38 tonnes has been recorded. This is down from 189.97 tonnes in 2015 and 245.09 tonnes in 2014.”
While commercial operators are working harder for their catches there is little evidence to suggest that their actions are depleting the stock as licence numbers have remained relatively the same.
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