Crab banks: a daily withdrawal of five tons to satisfy a nation

Despite the rainy season, accompanied by high winds and giant waves, crab fishing continues to meet consumer demand across Cambodia.

On average, more than five tonnes of blue swimmer crabs (Portunus pelagicus), known locally as Kdam Ses, are caught by fishermen off the coast every day to be sold to wholesalers and retailers across the country.

According to scientific research in the fishing industry, a female crab has more than one million eggs, with a survival rate of adult crabs of about 40%.

However, large catches of the crab lead to dwindling resources of Kdam Ses in Cambodia or may lead to its extinction in years to come if proper protection is not given.

Fortunately, a crab bank project, set up in 2008 by 28 fishing communities in coastal provinces such as Kep, Kampot, Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong, has ensured a sustainable supply of Kdam Ses from Cambodia. That’s according to fishermen and industry officials.

Did the so-called shoal of crabs really help increase crab resources? What are the responsibilities of inshore fishers to ensure there is a sufficient stock at all times?

Chak Vineath, director of the Kep Provincial Cantonment of the Fisheries Administration (FiA), told the Post that the idea for the crab bank originated in Japan in the mid-1980s.

The creation of the crab bank aims to increase the natural yield of crabs by ensuring the sustainability of crab resources where female crabs are allowed to lay their eggs before being caught.

Vineath said a female crab carries up to 1.2 million eggs, 80% of which are likely to hatch with a survival rate of around 40%, assuming they are well protected.

To preserve marine resources for the sustainability of their livelihoods, every fishing community should deploy as many man-made drains in seagrass conservation areas that act as “hidden habitats” for the breeding of crabs, fish and marine life. other marine species.

Assuming there is a donation of 1,000 female crabs with eggs,

If every fishing community received a donation of 1,000 female crabs with eggs each year, it would lay eggs that could help increase the stock.

“When the baby crabs are over a week old they will be released into the protected areas, so we can expect to have at least 30 million crabs a year,” Vineath said.

In Kep, three fishing communities – Phum Thmey fishing community, Angkor fishing community and O’Krasa fishing community – have jointly established crab shoal projects.

Vineath highlighted three types of methods under the project that are used by communities to raise crab stocks. They include donating crabs, buying female crabs with eggs, and setting up credit.

Members of the Community Crab Bank are selected based on their fishing skills, ability to pay credit, and willingness to provide a female crab with her eggs every few days.

Prak San, president of a crab bank in the finishing community of Phum Thmey, told the Post that since 2008, the community has had 28 family members who participated in the project supported by CORIN, FAO and the EU. via the Kep provincial cantonment of the FiA.

Members are required to donate 10-15 female crabs with eggs per month. Hatched eggs are released in community seagrass conservation areas. Since then, crab yields have increased dramatically.

“The number of crabs has increased dramatically because we release millions of baby crabs every year that hatch in seagrass conservation areas.

“Previously, a fishing boat could catch about 10 kg of crab per day using 1,000 bait traps, but now it can bring in nearly 15 kg using the same amount of traps,” Prak said.

Tith Rin, chairman of Trapeang Ropov fishing community in Prek Tnort commune, Bokor town, Kampot province, said fishermen who have joined the project are allowed to borrow between 500,000 riels and one million riels. ($125 and $250).

It has a repayment period of six months to a year without interest, but members are required to donate four to six female crabs with eggs per month, depending on the amount borrowed from the community.

Crab caught in Kampot province in recent years. POST STAFF

“We keep these female crabs with their eggs so they can lay their eggs and the babies are released into community seagrass and coral conservation areas.

“Female crabs are fed for a week after laying their eggs and are [later] sold to support and grow the community,” Tith told the Post.

He explained that the crabs take one to three weeks to lay their eggs, depending on the “color of the eggs”.

“If the eggs are yellow, it means they are still young and will take about three weeks to hatch. If they are dark yellow, it would take two weeks to hatch. Gray colored eggs hatch in a week while black eggs take three to five days,” he said.

Currently, the stormy weather has been unfavorable to anglers, especially those with small boats due to strong winds and giant waves that put their lives at risk.

However, to meet local demand and for export, crab fishing continues, practiced by sea fishermen capable of defying the odds.

Large quantities of Kdam Ses are caught where the supply in Kampot province alone can reach two tonnes per day.

A fisherman from Roluos Village, Boeung Touk Township, Bokor Town, Kong Choy, 56, said that fishermen who dare to take the risk of catching crabs during the rainy season can catch “a lot of crabs” and sell them at a high price.

“During this season, few fishermen go out to catch crabs because they are afraid of strong winds and big waves that can overturn their boats. But those who are brave can come back with a good catch and sell them for 30,000 to 60,000 riels per kilogram, depending on the size of the crab,” Choy told the Post.

Crab seller Kem Da, 51, at Kandal port, which is only 300 meters from the provincial hall of Kampot, said that since the establishment of the crab bank, the supply of Kdam Ses in the whole province was enough.

Any excess is sold to crab wholesalers in other provinces, she told the Post.

“Despite the rainy season, which made it difficult for some fishermen to go fishing far, we still have enough supply,” Da said.

Kampot FiA cantonment manager Sar Sorin pointed out that there are eight fishing communities in the province with established crab beds.

Each year, more than 1,000 kg of female crabs with eggs, or 10,000 animals, are collected by the community to be released in the protected area.

“The amount is not small if you calculate the number of eggs and the survival rate. We should have as many as 300 million crabs a year that are allowed to live naturally in the province’s protected seagrass and coral areas,” he told the Post.

Van Srey Eng, a seafood seller in O’Chrov township, Prey Nop district of Sihanoukville province, said the demand for crabs has doubled compared to four or five years ago. .

To meet the needs of the client, some fishermen are said to have violated the fisheries administration’s ban and agreement with the communities not to catch small crabs to sell them in the market.

Catching small crabs and female crabs with eggs will reduce crab yields, she said, noting it is “the biggest disaster”.

Using a 10m by 20m crab pond on the coast of Veal Rinh Bay, Van Srey Eng stores small crabs and female crabs with eggs, which she sells later when they are large.

“I have also donated female crabs to community crab banks in Koh Kong Island and Veal Rinh to be released into the sea so they can live naturally. I also keep some for myself to sell to customers when they’re big,” she said.

In Koh Kong province, Pheng Cheng, leader of the Chroy Praos fishing community, said only small crabs are being caught at the moment because most fishermen are afraid to go out due to dangerous sea conditions.

However, those with large boats will occasionally go deep sea fishing near the islands where they can catch large quantities of large crabs.

Due to lower catches during the rainy seasons, the supply from Kdam Ses in Koh Kong Province is not always sufficient.

Because of this, the people of Koh Kong prefer to consume Kdam Thmor (Scylla serrata) because it is abundant and cheaper.

“From November to June, however, they will prefer Kdam Ses, especially in the dry season, because it contains a lot of meat and fat,” Pheng said.