Forrest Electorate: South West Catchments Council

‘Save the crabs, then eat them.’ In March this year, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, the member for Paterson, came to Western Australia to launch the ‘Save the crabs, then eat them’ campaign of the South West Catchments Council. The campaign features two blue swimmer crab heroes, Crusty and Chrisso, who have some humorous but wise words about the impact that the application of fertiliser in gardens has on their world—our local waterways.

The program highlights the impact we have on our environment and how, working together, we can improve the outcomes by making simple changes. What better way to engage people in water quality than to link it to a story everyone can share. Everyone gets this story. Everyone wants to see crabs swimming in our estuaries and beaches, but we also love to catch them and eat them at the right time.

The campaign actually urges gardeners to think about the timing of when they fertilise their lawns and gardens— and certainly not when it is raining. The south-west waterways are world famous from Geographe Bay to Smiths Beach and the Margaret River coastline. They are a well-known destination for holidays, surfing, relaxing and fishing.

However, our rivers and estuaries are under increasing pressure from population growth because people love to live right next to the beach or the river. Pressures from this include escaped weeds from gardens, changes to water flow and fertiliser run-off from green lawns. In response, the Australian government has committed $2 billion over the next four years to help conserve, protect and rehabilitate Australia’s natural heritage and support local action for natural resource management, like this particular South West Catchments Council.

As part of this, the National Landcare Program will invest $1 billion to help drive sustainable agriculture as well support the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of Australia’s natural environment through projects such as ‘Save our crabs, then eat them.’ The campaign does this not by preaching science at people but by engaging them with things in the environment they are already connected with—the blue swimmer crabs, Crusty and Chrisso, and how delicious they are.

It focuses on the preservation of an iconic piece of our natural ecosystem by identifying its well-known benefits —we cannot eat the crabs, if we do not help them to develop. They have to grow. We know that rain carries excess fertiliser from suburban lawns and gardens into stormwater drains, rivers and estuaries, all the way to the ocean. Fertilisers can threaten these sensitive environments and the health of the fish and shellfish that live there like the blue swimmer crabs. This campaign is an excellent example of the National Landcare Program actually working in a practical way. It is a local campaign driven by the local south-west people in my part of the world.

The ‘Save the crabs, then eat them’ is a media campaign, mainly through television and radio, aimed at educating urban residents on the right time of year to fertilise, the right products to use and the right application amounts —practical advice. It will increase awareness of waterways and about catchment associated pollution. As part of their Home River Ocean campaign, it highlights and urges gardeners to think about the timing of their fertiliser applications. It is done very cleverly through Crusty and Chrisso.

These actions aim to capture people’s imaginations and, ultimately, to change their behaviour to save the blue swimmer crab. This will allow the existing crabbing lifestyle and seafood industry to be sustainable. I congratulate the South West Catchments Council and its partners on this excellent initiative. ‘Save the crabs, then eat them,’ all hail to Crusty and Chrisso. Even at a community garden that I visited recently, they had a ‘Save the crabs, then eat them’ specialised garden that we could all look at to learn how we can save Crusty and Chrisso, and how we can make sure that those crabs are around at the right size when we want to catch them and really enjoy eating them. We see these beautiful blue swimmer crabs in our part of the world.

It is Crusty and Chris with their wonderful crabbie-type voices that are influencing people to make very good decisions about how and when they fertilise their lawns and gardens. I commend the South West Catchments Council on this wonderful initiative. Even children understand Crusty and Chrisso. What a great result and it is a great initiative.