Mumbai: Armed with Rs24 crore that the Maharshtra budget allocated to it, the mangrove cell has decided to use a part of it to set up a crab hatchery in Sindhudurg. The district along the Konkan coast is lined with mangroves which offer ideal conditions to rear mud crabs.
The hatchery will have the potential to produce one million crablets in a year. It will have dedicated sections for keeping parent crabs, spawning, hatching and larval rearing. The facility is expected to be completed this year and will be functional from 2017. The mangrove cell intends to spend Rs9 crore on this project and plans to create more hatcheries along the coastline.
Presently, Tamil Nadu is the only state in India that produces crablets and Maharashtra has, for the past two years, been procuring the baby crabs from them and rearing them in the wetlands.
Speaking about the need to open a hatchery in Maharashtra, the chief conservator of forest, mangrove cell N Vasudevan said, “While flying in crablets from Tamil Nadu, some of them do not survive the journey. Setting up a hatchery will make crab farming more profitable and reduce their mortality rate.”
The hatchery will also boost attempts to conserve mangroves as owners of private mangrove lands who would consider their property to be of little economic value can end up earning lakhs from it. In 2015, crab farmers in Vengurla taluka in Sindhudurg district made around Rs9 lakh from selling the crabs that they had reared.
Sandip Gawade Shiroda, 40, a crab farmer from Vengurla had made Rs50,000 by selling off his first batch of crabs in 2015. But, in 2016 he earned Rs2 lakh.
“Rearing mud crabs does not need too much work. For the first month I keep the crablets in a 8X4 metre enclosure where they are fed waste fish. Then they are released into mangrove lands or ponds which have mesh nets to keep the crabs within my farm,” said Shiroda. The crabs would be harvested once they reach their full size within eight months, he added.
“These crabs eat barnacles and oysters that are found in abundant in wetlands. It also keeps the wetlands clean by eating dead fish. So the investment would mostly be in terms of buying the crablets,” said Subir Ghosh, a project co-ordinator of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that has partnered with the government in the crab farming project. Currently, crablets from Tamil nadu are bought at a subsidies rate of about Rs16 each and a fully grown mud crab can be sold for Rs1,000.
Explaining how crab farming plays a role in protecting mangroves, Vasudevan said, “Earlier, owners of private mangrove lands would try to destroy the mangroves by dumping debris as they thought that they were of no use to them. But ever since we started crab farming in the region, several private owners have sought help from us to rear crabs on their property as well.” He added, “This will ensure that people protect mangroves as these crabs thrive in mangrove lands.”