Cross breeding mud crabs raises prod'n

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Monday, December 31, 2012


MUD CRABS, especially females that have fat or "aligue," are highly-esteemed gourmet seafood in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, China, and Japan. The Philippines is a mud crab exporter to these countries.

Growing mud crabs and other fish species is envisioned to be a major agriculture program since the Philippines is among world’s biggest fishery producers. In 2011, the country produced 15,730 metric tons of mud crabs.

The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) said growing mud crabs is a profitable venture. A farmer can harvest 1,200 kilograms of mud crabs per hectare per cropping of five months. At P400 per kilo, it can give an additional income to farmers of P480,000 per cropping or P960,000 for two croppings a year.

Although a viable project, it has one big problem: continuous seedstocks for continuous mud crab production.

BAR, a line agency of the Department of Agriculture, thought of one possible solution: cross breeding the giant mud crabs from Zamboanga Sibugay and the native crab of Mindoro.

"We're looking at stocking of gravid crabs in mangrove areas, adopting the sea ranching concept," explained Roberto R. Abrera, manager of the Regional Fisheries Research and Development Center-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Mindoro.

Daisy F. Ladra, and aquaculturist and BFAR mud crab specialist, said the cross breeding "is necessary in order to ensure sustainability in a full life cycle production" of the mud crabs.

Crabs should produce seedstocks in order to complete the life cycle, Ladra said. This should be repeated many times over, which is a usual process in a breeding program that aims to start an aquaculture industry.

The study is done through the BFAR's Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) program. “The participation of the community is crucial to its success as part of government’s poverty reduction and livelihood objectives,” BAR said in a statement.

The main of CPAR is to demonstrate to the community the viability of an introduced program. In the case of mud crabs, Ladra said, "there should be natural breeding which will enable fishpond operators to sustain their mud crab production."

After a year of field trial, the CPAR for the giant mud crab achieved a successful survival program in Oriental Mindoro. “The crabs grew at a weight 350 grams per piece or three pieces in a kilo, making it attractive for the export market,” BAR said.

Growing mud crabs is an environment-friendly way to produce food. Fishponds in mangroves which are of brackishwater (freshwater and sea water combination) are tapped as grow-out area.

Since mud crabs are living in mangroves, they don’t need commercial feeds. The crabs can subsist on natural feeds like chopped trash fish, animal hide, and snails.

The program has been supported by Oriental Mindoro Congressman Reynaldo V. Umali. Last December 12, 2012, massive mangrove planting took place in the province after the Unified Tree of Life (UTOL) Program. It aims to plant 12 million trees from the highlands to the coastal areas.

Through the technical assistance of BFAR, Congressman Umali has put up his own mangrove nursery where almost 50,000 mangrove seedlings are already produced and planted to denuded mangrove areas.

"We want to regenerate crab population in the mangrove area. Once the trees are planted, more crabs can be raised," assured Abrera.

Researchers noted that there are areas in Mindoro Island that are natural spawning ground for crabs. This makes the province high potential for long term crab industry growth.

“We need to have breeder stocks lay eggs in order to establish a population,” Ladra said. "Although there's a natural population of mud crab in Mindoro, it's not enough to start an industry."

There are four kinds of mud crabs in the Philippines: the king crab (“Scylla serrata”), the purple crab (“S. tranquebarica”), the orange or red crab (“S. olivacea”), and the rare green mud crab (“S. paramamosain”). Among the mud crabs, the king crab is the most popular for its fast growth and flavor and is called an “export winner” for its high demand in the international market.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 01, 2013.

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