Mud crabs prove elusive; fishers blame waste, silt accumulation

Mud crabs prove elusive; fishers blame waste, silt accumulation

Varapuzha: Aquatic species too are under stress owing to increasing pollution and human intervention. Both manmade and natural causes are being blamed for the declining number of mud crabs in the rivers and streams at Kadamakudy, a suburb of Kochi in Kerala's Ernakulam district.

(Mud crabs are in fact marine crabs (family Xanthidae) found even on muddy bottoms of inland water bodies close to sea.)

Dumping of hazardous industrial waste into the water body and accumulation of huge amounts of silt in the water bodies after the floods in Kerala are likely behind the fall in the catch of mud crabs.

The stretches of Veeranpuzha and Periyar rivers flowing through Kadamakudy are polluted.

Mud crab that weighs up to 2 kg as well as big shrimps and prawns were found in abundance in the streams at Kadamakudy until recent years.

Nowadays, even if the farmers cast the net early in the morning, they only get very few crabs and fish, farmer and merchant K T John lamented.

Most of the catch is exported. The crabs and prawns from these waters are sought-after even in America, China, and the European countries.

A few months ago mud crab that weighs 1 kg fetched Rs 1,800 to Rs 2,200. The rate dipped to Rs 1,500 if the mud crab weighs between 1 kg and 800 grams. A 550-gram crab used to fetch Rs 1,200 and a 350-gram crab Rs 700 in the local market. Those who can’t afford to buy the expensive mud crabs, settle for the ‘kavakali’ variety of small crabs in the domestic market.

What needs to be done

Small-scale fishermen here are peeved as they are not getting any help from the fisheries department and Matsyafed officers concerned.

No action was taken to ensure the population of the crab increased through natural breeding, they said.

Even efforts such as buying young crabs and trying to breed them go in vain due to unfavourable conditions. Therefore, most people desist from investing in pisciculture. Also, unscientific methods of fishing have led to the depletion of fish population.

The fisheries sector stands to gain if steps are taken to remove the silt deposits from the Veeranpuzha and Periyar rivers at Kadamakudy.

Steps also need to be taken to protect the fish resources in the waters of Kadamakudy. Moreover, farmers should be given adequate aid and support by the authorities concerned.

Initially the mud crabs were caught from rivers and lakes, but later as the demand for these crabs soared people started mud crab farming in shrimp farms (chemeen kettu) and this practice has been going on for many years. The mud crab farmers buy crab babies from traditional fishers to rear them in farms but sometimes virus attacks can be detrimental.