Ocean Sand Crab (2020)

Ovalipes australiensis

  • Daniel Johnson (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • David Harris (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development WA)
  • Danielle Johnston (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development WA)
  • Crystal Beckmann (South Australian Research and Development Institute)

Date Published: June 2021

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Ocean Sand Crab occurs around Australia's southerly coastlines from approximately Wide Bay in QLD to Rottnest Island in WA (including TAS). Of the three jurisdictional stocks reported here, those in SA and WA are classified as sustainable, while the NSW stock is classified as undefined.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Western Australia Western Australia Sustainable

Catch, nominal catch rates

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Stock Structure

Ocean Sand Crab is distributed in Australia from Wide Bay in Queensland around the south and east coasts to Rottnest Island in Western Australia, including Tasmanian Waters [Kailola et al. 1993].

In South Australia, the commercial fishery for Ocean Sand Crab is heavily concentrated in and around Coffin Bay on the West Coast, and catches have also occurred in Gulf St Vincent and Spencer Gulf [Steer et al. 2020]. Commercial fishing for Ocean Sand Crab in Western Australia is currently focused on nearshore waters in and around the south coastal town of Albany.

The biological stock delineation of Ocean Sand Crab remains unclear. Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—South Australia, Western Australia, and New South Wales.


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Stock Status

Western Australia

No commercial catches of Ocean Sand Crab had been reported in WA prior to the issue of a five-year Instrument of Exemption (IOE) in 2016 that endorsed a single commercial fisher to target sand crabs using purpose-designed hourglass traps in waters along the South Coast between Cape Leeuwin and Hopetoun. Fishing between 2016 and 2019 has concentrated along coastal beaches in and around Albany, with fishing effort primarily driven by market demand (annual catches ranging from around 1–2 t). Although occasional catches have been reported by boat-based recreational fishers, Ocean Sand Crab is not considered an important recreational species in WA. No Ocean Sand Crab catches were reported by boat-based recreational fishers in WA during 2017–18 [Ryan et al. 2019]. While stock size and relative exploitation along the south coast is not yet fully understood, the level of commercial and recreational catch and effort remains very low.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Ocean Sand Crab in Western Australia is classified as  sustainable stock


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Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Ocean Sand Crab

Ocean Sand Crabs grow to slightly more than 100 mm carapace width [Jones and Morgan 1994]. Longevity of Ocean Sand Crabs is unknown.

Size and age at maturity are unknown for Ocean Sand Crabs. A study on the reproductive biology of Ocean Sand Crabs in Coffin Bay (SA) determined that they are winter spawners with reproductive activity peaking in July and berried females present until late August [Deakin 1996].

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Fishing methods
Western Australia
Crab Trap
Management methods
Method Western Australia
Fishing gear and method restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial restrictions
Bag and possession limits
Western Australia
Recreational Nil recorded (2017–18)

New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing

New South Wales – Recreational (Catch) Murphy et al. [2020].

Western Australia - 2017–18 boat based recreational catch nil [Ryan et al. 2019]

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Catch Chart

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  1. A field guide to crustaceans of Australian waters. Reed, Chatswood NSW. 157 & 162.
  2. Deakin S (1996) Reproductive biology of the sand crab (Ovalipes australiensis) found in the Farm Beach/Point Longnose area. Honours Thesis- Adelaide University, South Australia. 54 pp.
  3. Giri, K., & Hall, K. (2015). South Australian recreational fishing survey. Fisheries Victoria Internal Rep ort Series No. 62.
  4. Jone GK and Deakin S (1997). Sand crabs (Ovalipes australiensis ). Fisheries Assessment Report to PIRSA for the Marine Scalefish Fishery Management Committee, South Australian Fisheries Assessment Series 97/12. 20 pp.
  5. Jones GK (1995). A review of the catch and effort and fisheries biology of the Coffin Bay Sand Crab (Ovalipes australiensis) fishery. SARDI Reserach Report Series, No. 7. 23 pp.
  6. Kailola P, Williams MJ, Stewart PC, Reichlet RE, McNee A, Grieve C (1993). Australian fisheries resources. Bureau of Resource Sciences and Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.
  7. Murphy, J.J., Ochwada-Doyle, F.A., West, L.D., Stark, K.E. and Hughes, J.M., 2020. The NSW Recreational Fisheries Monitoring Program - survey of recreational fishing, 2017/18. NSW DPI - Fisheries Final Report Series No. 158.
  8. PIRSA (2013). Management Plan for the South Australian Commercial Marine Scalefish Fishery. PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, Adelaide, 143 pp The South Australian Fishery Management Series, Paper No. 59.
  9. PIRSA (2016). Review of size, bag and boat limits in South Australia's recreational fishing sector, marine and freshwater. Support document for the Management Plan for recreational fishing in South Australia. PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, Adelaide, 54 pp.
  10. Ryan, K.L., Hall, N.G., Lai, E.K., Smallwood, C.B., Tate, A., Taylor, S.M. and Wise, B.S., 2019. State-wide survey of boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2017/18. Fisheries Research Report No. 297, Department of Primary industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. 195pp.
  11. Steer MA, Fowler AJ, Rogers PJ, Bailleul F, Earl J, Matthews D, Drew M and Tsolos A (2020). Assessment of South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery in 2018. Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2019/000427-3. SARDI Research Report Series No. 1049. 214 pp.

Downloadable reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.