In a bid to boost mangrove conservation, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has asked the forest department to draft a policy to incentivise crab farming in the mangrove forests and make it a viable alternative source of livelihood for fishermen. The Chief Minister released the first batch of 500 crablets in a pond near the Thane creek at Airoli and surveyed the wetlands along Thane creek up to Vashi bridge on Monday.
Considered one of the tastiest crab species, the mangrove crab in their natural habitats can grow up to 800 gm within six months, if conditions are ideal, said mangrove cell officials. Sale of crabs earned India around Rs 85 crore in foreign exchange last year and Maharashtra earned Rs 7 crore, said officials from Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA).
“The CM found that this could be a lucrative economic activity for the fishermen and asked us to promote it and asked the forest department to come up with a policy to incentivize crab farming in mangrove areas. The CM also wants the mangroves and flamingos along the Thane creek to be protected to enhance the biodiversity in the area and ensure better ecotourism,” said an official from the CMO.
Scylla Serrata (commonly known as mangrove or mud crabs) larvae live in mangrove areas and feed on small organisms found in these habitats, said mangrove cell officials.
“Crab farming will not only provide an alternative livelihood to local fishermen but also be an incentive to conserve mangroves in the area. As these crablets need the mangroves to survive, the fishermen ensure that the mangrove forests are secured, making it a win-win situation for us,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forests, mangrove cell.
The crablets released in the pond at the marine interpretation centre of the mangrove cell on Monday were procured from Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture (RGCA) crab hatchery, the R&D arm of MPEDA in Tamil Nadu. RGCA works on production of mud crab seeds in the hatchery.
Not having a hatchery in Maharashtra means the state officials have to purchase hatchlings from Tamil Nadu. But with the CM’s positive response, the mangrove cell is confident of getting permission to set up an hatchery in the state. “We have already identified a site in Vengurla to set up a hatchery,” said Vasudevan.
The practice of crab farming is not new to fishermen in Navi Mumbai. Under the guidance of MPEDA, trained fishermen have been practising crab farming in little ponds and the creek at Vashi. “The fishermen have been involved in crab farming for a year. They purchase the crab seeds from RGCA and we have trained them to practice sustainable crab farming so that no juvenile crabs are caught and sold. With the state incentivising crab farming, the fishermen can earn much more,” said an official from MPEDA.