Mud Crab Farming in Bangladesh
Because of high prices in international markets, mud crab farming is gaining popularity in the coastal districts of Bangladesh. According to one study, mud crab activities provide jobs for around 300,000 farmers, collectors, traders, brokers, transporters and exporters.
In the southwestern districts of Bangladesh, about 7,000 tons of mud crabs were produced in 1995-1996, and more than 10,000 tons were produced in 2000. After shrimp, mud crabs have become the second-most exported crustacean from Bangladesh. They are exported live to China, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, the European Union and the United States. In 2007-2008, total earnings from mud crab exports were $7 million, and from 2009-2010 to 2013-2014, there was a big increase in crab export earnings.
A major portion of mud crab exports is wild-caught in the estuaries, tidal rivers and mangroves of the Sundarbans and other coastal areas, while exports from farming continue to increase. Two species of mud crab, Scylla serrata and S. olivacea, are available in Bangladesh.
Because mud crabs are less susceptible to disease and more resistant to adverse environment conditions, poor water quality and climate change, many shrimp farmers are switching to mud crab farming.
Currently, the most popular system for growing mud crabs is stocking underweight (less than 80 grams for female and less than 100 grams for males) immature (underdeveloped gonads) in brackish water ponds and then feeding them for a short period. Different types of locally available trash fish are used as feed. When they reach market size, they are then exported live.
Soft-shell crabs are produced by keeping individual crabs in plastic boxes in brackishwater ponds, feeding them locally available raw fish and harvesting them right after they molt. Soft-shell crab production is very new in Bangladesh, mostly in Cox’s Bazar, on a limited-scale.
Marketing is not a problem because mud crabs are in very high demand on international markets.
Because no mud crab hatcheries have been established in Bangladesh, farming is totally dependent on seedstock collected from the wild, mostly from the Sundarbans and other mangrove areas. Because of the rapid expansion of mud crab farming, a huge quantity of juvenile mud crabs are being captured, which puts intense pressure on wild populations. The present size of wild populations and yearly catches are unknown, so it’s not possible to determine the maximum allowable catch. It is not known if natural wild stocks are over or under exploited. Discussion with crab collectors and traders, however, reveal that collectors are not able to collect as many crabs as in the past, an indication of declining wild stocks.
Hatchery produced seedstock is the only option for sustainable development of mud crab farming in Bangladesh. Hatchery production of mud crabs has been done in India, Philippines, Vietnam, China, Japan and Australia. Mud crab hatcheries should be developed in Bangladesh. World mud crab hatchery experts say mud crab hatchery production requires a high level of expertise because of extremely sensitive larval stages (five zoeal stages and one megalops stage), after which they become crablets ready for stocking.
A recent joint initiative by WorldFish and the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI) has successfully produced crablets under laboratory conditions. This provides hope that Bangladesh is on its way to developing commercial crab hatcheries.
Crab farming has been taken up by 5,000 families living along the coastal rivers of Bangladesh. Around 8,000 collectors earn their living by supplying crabs—available year round—to the farmers.
Families living in eight upazilas (counties or boroughs) of Cox’s Bazar District (state or province)—including Moheshkhali, Chakaria, Pekua, Kutubdia and Teknaf—are earning big profits from small investments in crab farming. Families can earn over $5,000 a year from farming crabs in one-hectare ponds that are not suitable for fish farming. The growout/fattening period is short, 15-20 days in brackish water.
Shankar Barua, a crab trader in Moheshkhali, said large crabs can be sold to buyers for $0.77 to $1.00 each. The buyers export them to Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.
According to farmer Shubhash, there are around 500 crab farmers living in Chakaria.
Farmer Jahangir Alam of Badarkhali-2 Area said that sometimes crabs die from diseases and sometimes the wholesalers in Dhaka cheat them.
Video: For a minute-and-a-half, low-definition video of a crab pond in Bangladesh, Click Here.
Sources: 1. World Aquaculture (the quarterly magazine of the World Aquaculture Society). Editor-in-Chief, John Hargreaves. Mud Crab Aquaculture: Present Status, Prospect and Sustainability in Bangladesh. Muhammad Sahidul Islam, Naseem Ahmed Aleem and Muhammad Meezanur Rahman (WorldFish Bangladesh and South Asia, House 22B, Road 7, Banani, Dhaka, Bangladesh). Volume 46, Number 3, Page 58, September 2015. 2. Dhaka Tribune. Crab Brings Profit to Families in Coastal Area. October 9, 2015. 3. VU Clip. Video, Crab Farming in Bangladesh. September 12, 2008. 4. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, October 12, 2015.
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