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Mud Crab Population Is Dwindling In Odisha

Updated: September 25, 2015 12:00 am

The delicious mud crab is now a rare in the coastal parts of Odisha due to rampant catching of baby crab by the locals  and other adverse reasons

Few years back, the nearby fish markets in coastal districts were flooded with basketful of mud crabs but now crab has become a rare sight in the fish market. Even if detected most of those are very small in size and lacking maturity.

The mud crab (Scylla serrata) occurs in the brackish waters of mangroves along Mahakalapada and Rajnagar blocks in coastal district of Kendrapara  and other parts of the state. There is need for taking effective steps to conserve this mangrove-dwelling brackish water mud crab,  whose population is seen to be dwindling.

Many fishermen expressed concern over the depletion of the mud crab population of red variety and the plight of fishermen dependent on them for their livelihood.

“Better management practices could ensure conservation and proliferation of the mud crab population of red variety. Fishermen should jointly strive for developing the mud crab population of the mangroves along the coast. The  crab fetches a good income to the fisherfolks. The mud crab  yield better revenues like shrimps and lobsters,” said Narayan Haldar, president of Odisha Traditional Fish Workers’ Union (OTFWU). “Around 5000 fisherwomen of the  seaside villages of Odisha are dependent on the red crab catches for their livelihood and every effort should be made for developing these mangrove crabs,” said Haldar.

“The crab farmers articulated their worry over the depleting stocks of the mud crab. They also ventilated their anxiety over the possible impact of water pollution on mangrove crabs. In the seaside villages  a large number of fishermen were involved in mud crab fishing,mainly the mud crab. This crab included two species, Scylla serrata and S.paramamosain.  The female of S.serrata means a crab with eggs, in the Mahanadi and Bhitarkanika mangrove zone. This is because of the presence of well developed ovaries inside its body underneath the carapace,” said Pratap Chandra Rout, Deputy Director (Marine), fishery department.

The decrease in brackish water mangrove crab is  attributed to environmental conditions on the one hand and to overexploitation on the other. So far as environmental conditions are concerned, these were identified as non-seasonal and sudden rains, floods, cyclonic storms and destruction of mangroves. Soon afterwards there was a definite fall in the mud crab catches due to death of juvenile and larval forms.  Mangroves offered very good habitat and hiding place for the growing mud crabs, and it was observed that cutting the mangrove plants resulted in depletion in stocks of this crustacean. The fishery officer made another important point  in regard to harvesting methods of mud crabs. “Harvesting of berried or female mud crabs resulted in a greater loss because each female S. serrata would lay about 2 million to 6 million eggs. About 2-7 per cent  of such berried crabs would  come across during good breeding season and catching these resulted in a substantial decline in the mud crab fishery,” particularly of red crabs.  said  the fishery officer.

Fishing for crabs in the vast mangrove forest of the Bhitarkanika national park and its nearby areas in Kendrapara district is also a dangerous way to make a living. Mangrove forest and its nearby areas are a source of livelihood for the locals, who catch fish, collect wood, crabs, tiny shrimps and honey there. In the dense mangrove forest and creeks, however, salt-water crocodiles find it easy to stalk and attack men and women absorbed in their work to catch crabs. Last year three women crab catchers were killed in the area by the predators.

Malilata Jena (42) of Bijayanagar village under Iswarapur village within Bhitarkanika national park was killed six months back by a crocodile while she was catching crabs in the creek. Despite the death of Malilata, many women and kids venture into the mangroves and creeks, risking life and limb, in search of the mud crabs. They know the art of catching mud crabs from the holes near the creek by putting a stick.

Crab catchers also face lot of problems from the middlemen to sell crabs. “Mud crab catchers sell a kilogram of mud crab to the middlemen at Rs 50 to Rs 60 in villages whereas the middlemen mint more money  by selling crabs at the cost of Rs 80 to Rs 140  in cities like Cuttack, Bhubaneswer , Rourkela and other parts of the state,” said Rani  Maiti (23) a crab catcher of  Batighar village.

By Ashis Senapati from Kendrapara

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