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In Press Procs. Of Regional workshop on integrated management of Mangrove/coastal ecosystems for sustainable aquaculture development..

23rd-25th March 1999 (Ed, Mackintosh, D.) Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Culture of mud crabs in mangrove areas : the Sarawak experience.


By A. M. Ikhwanuddin# and S. Oakley* Inland Fisheries Division, Department of Agriculture, Kuching, Sarawak Malaysia. *Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation, University Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia.
#

ABSTRACT The blue swimmer crab, Portunus sp. and the mud crab, Scylla sp. dominate crab landings in Sarawak Malaysia. The two most common mud crab species are Scylla olivacea and Scylla tranquebarica and these are widespread thoughout the state; rare specimens of Scylla serrata are also occasionally found. Mud crab aquaculture as practiced in Sarawak, is confined to the mangrove area within the intertidal zones using both pond and pen culture system. Almost all the mud crab farms have been developed under the incentive scheme provided by the Inland Fisheries Division, Department of Agriculture, Sarawak. By 1997, a total area of 20.34 hectare of crab farms were established under this scheme. The projects are widely dispersed over the state in areas with suitable habitat and have been mostly undertaken on an individual and group basis. The major constraint to the operation is that the culture operation has to depend solely on wild young crabs for stocking. The design and structure of the mud crab pond and pen enclosures within mangroves and the commonly adopted culture techniques are described The economic performance for both culture systems is very promising and economically feasible although there are several clear operational and environmental advantages for pen culture. A 12 pen unit of 0.2ha costs rm$23620 to build and makes a yearly profit of rm$16000, the return on investment is over 40% and total production is over 4.5 tonnes per year.

Introduction According to the Sarawak Annual Fisheries Ststistics, 1995 (Anon, 1995), two important tropical portunids, the blue swimmer crab, Portunus sp. and the mud crab, Scylla sp. dominate crab landings in Sarawak. The 1995 landings of each of these crabs in Sarawak was estimated to be 198.93 metric tonnes and 360.37 metric tonnes for Portunus sp. and Scylla sp. respectivelly. A preliminary survey for mud crab harvest was implemented by the Inland Fisheries Division, Department of Agriculture, Sarawak. The survey covered four major mangrove areas: Sematan (Kuching division), Saribas (Sri Aman division), Brunei Bay (Limbang division) and Sibu Laut/Rambungan (Kuching division). This study showed that there are two dominant mud crab species, locally called ketam bakau/nipah/kalok and ketam pasir/laut. These two species have the features of Scylla olivacea and Scylla tranquebarica as described by Keenan, Davie and Mann, (1998). The mud crab species cultured in Sarawak are also the same species (Chang and Ikhwanuddin, In press ; Ikhwanuddin and Oakley, In press).

In Press Procs. Of Regional workshop on integrated management of Mangrove/coastal ecosystems for sustainable aquaculture development.. 23rd-25th March 1999 (Ed, Mackintosh, D.) Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

In Sarawak, mangrove swamps cover an area of approximately 173,792 hectares and mud crab fisheries are confined to the estuaries and coastal areas which support mangrove swamp development. Because the wild capture fishery is the only source of supply of juvenile crabs for the aquaculture farms, the mud crab aquaculture farms are also confined to the same mangrove areas. Farm development usually takes place within the intertidal zones of these mangrove swamps and access is frequently only possible by boat. Aquaculture production statistics for Sarawak are not routinely collected and the total annual crab harvest from either farms or the wild is not known. However, harvests are significant since in one small village (Sematan) there were in 1998 over 17 full time and 40 part-time fishers (generally spring tides only) with catches of 15-16kg per person per day during spring tides and 5-6 kg per person per day during neap tides making total catches for the village of over 9.8 tonnes per month at a value of rm$ 70-80,000 monthly. 2.0 Current status Mud crab culture in Sarawak was started in 1991 as a DOA1 project in small-scale ponds (Ikhwanuddin and Oakley, In press). Because of the success of this pilot operation the culture operation has attracted considerable attention from small-scale farmers who wish to develop their own pond culture or pen culture farms. From 1992, the crab culture project of the Inland Fisheries Division, DOA has been actively promoting mud crab culture farms among the artisanal fishers along the coastal areas. The pen culture system was introduced in 1992 and has several advantages which make it more popular among the local fishers/culturists than the pond culture system. Almost all these crab culture farms have been subsidised by the scheme provided by the Inland Fisheries Division, Department of Agriculture, Sarawak. Under this scheme a farmer can obtain a grant of upto rm$1500 per pen. Since the first culture operations were started in 1991, the techniques have spread to Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman, Sarikei, Sibu, Bintulu and Limbang division of Sarawak. The farms are dependant on mangrove swamp areas and a must have a regular supply of juvenile crabs for stocking. These factors have meant that most of these farms have developed in the Kuching and Sri Aman division where there are the largest expanses of natural mangrove (table 1). From 1991 to 1997, the total area under crab culture farms was 20.34 hectare, with 17.26 hectare under pen culture and 3.08 hectare under pond culture system (table 2). All of these farms were undertaken on a individual and small community group basis while in 1998, one mini-estate scale crab farm was established. The mini-estate scale crab farm was initiated by the Inland Fisheries Division, Department of Agriculture, Sarawak and is being run by the Lundu Area Farmer Organisation. At present the farm has establised 35 units of crab pen enclosures covering a areas of 0.6 hectare in Sematan, Kuching. During late 1998 and early 1999 the crab price for marketable size (3-4 pcs./kg) has ranged from rm$8.00 to rm$16.00 per kg throughout Sarawak. In Kuching, the market price was between rm$12.00 to rm$16.00 per kg, the farm gate price was lower to allow for transport and marketing charges at about rm$10.00 per kg. With the increase in prices and demand from the domestic and oversea market especially within Asian countries, the mini-estate scale farms has attracted lots of interest from private sector investors. At the time of writing the authors understand that one or two more mini-estate farms will be establised by the end of 1999.
1

DOA = Department of Agriculture, Kuching, Sarawak Malaysia.

In Press Procs. Of Regional workshop on integrated management of Mangrove/coastal ecosystems for sustainable aquaculture development.. 23rd-25th March 1999 (Ed, Mackintosh, D.) Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Table 1, Area under mud crab culture in Sarawak. Location 1. Kuching 2. Samarahan 3. Sri Aman 4. Sarikei 5. Limbang 6. Sibu 7. Bintulu Total No. of unit 133 41 167 18 15 4 3 381 Size of farm (ha.) 4.18 0.80 13.39 1.24 0.24 0.43 0.06 20.34

*Source : Ikhwanuddin and Oakley, In press.

Table 2, Mud crab culture farms implemented under Sarawak Department of Agriculture scheme Year started No. pond 10 7 14 24 0 0 0 0 of No. pen 0 6 48 122 3 147 0 35 of Total units 10 13 62 146 3 147 0 35 Total Pond size(ha.) 1.85 0.35 0.05 0.83 0 0 0 not available 3.08 Total Pen size(ha.) 0 0.10 2.52 7.25 0.06 7.33 0 not available 17.26 Total Both culture types (ha.) 1.85 0.45 2.57 8.08 0.06 7.33 0

1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998

Total

55

326

381

20.34

*Source : Ikhwanuddin and Oakley, In press. 1998 figures provisional.

In Press Procs. Of Regional workshop on integrated management of Mangrove/coastal ecosystems for sustainable aquaculture development.. 23rd-25th March 1999 (Ed, Mackintosh, D.) Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

3.0 Culture system and management 3.1 Sites The culture of mud crab is carried out in coastal brackishwater ponds and pen enclosures within the mangroves areas. Most of the mud crab project is located in the low-lying and logged areas of mangrove swamp. 3.2 Supply of young mud crab for stocking. Both culture system involve stocking with undersized wild caught crabs of about 100 gm each. Partial stocking is normally practiced because the culture operation has to depend solely on small crabs being caught by the wild crab fishery. Both common species of mud crabs (Scylla olivacea and Scylla tranquebarica) are usually stocked for the culture operation (Chang and Ikhwanuddin, In press ; Ikhwanuddin and Oakley, In press)., although S. tranquebarica has the larger maximum size (Ikhwanuddin, unpublished data). The supply of young mud crab for culture operation varies seasonally with a larger percentage of small crabs in catches during the rainy season (fig 1). During June, small crabs of both species account for 38% of landings while in December over 55% of landings are of small low value crabs, these records are statistically significant for the only year of recorded data but whether this pattern is repeated annually is not yet known.
Small crabs In Catches by Fishers in Sematan
600 550 500 450 400 350 300 Jun.,1998 60 55 50 45 40 35 30 Dec.,1998

Crabs > 9cm

July.,1998

Aug.,1998

Sept.,1998

Oct.,1998

Nov.,1998

Data from 1000 crabs randomly sampled at point of first sale each month

Figure 1 Abundance of small crabs >9cm in carapace width in commercial catches in Sematan.

3.3 Design and structure Crab Ponds

In Press Procs. Of Regional workshop on integrated management of Mangrove/coastal ecosystems for sustainable aquaculture development.. 23rd-25th March 1999 (Ed, Mackintosh, D.) Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

The crab ponds are generally small of less than 0.2 hectare in size. Pond construction is done by minimal digging which provides soil for pond bund. A small island or mound of soil is left undisturbed in the center of the pond. This is important in providing shelter and burrow ground for the crab especelly during moulting. To prevent soil erosion and crab escape the pond sides is covered with asbestos cement flat sheets or wooden planks. The pond is also fenced by using chain-link around the pond bund to prevent predator entry. An 8 inch elbow PVC pipe is usually installed at the entrance to the inlet/outlet of the pond drain with the elbow end on the inner side. For ponds that is located at the high ground, water pipes and water pumps are installed to irrigate the ponds during the neap tide period when the tide cannot reach the area.

Figure 2. Section of crab pond exchavated from muddy soil at or just above the high tide level. The pump and the drain are to facilitate water exchange. The asbestos sheet is to stop crab burrowing into the side walls of the pond while the chain link fence is anti predator.

Figure 3 Plan view of typical crab pond showing the small island left in the middle of the pond for protection of moulting crabs.

In Press Procs. Of Regional workshop on integrated management of Mangrove/coastal ecosystems for sustainable aquaculture development.. 23rd-25th March 1999 (Ed, Mackintosh, D.) Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Crab pens The crab pen dimension are normally 18m x 9m with 2.4m high fencing. The high fencing reduces crab escapes and deters predators especially when the water level is high during spring tides. The fencing is made of palm (Oncosperma tigillaria) or wooden plank strips of about 10cm x 4m x 6cm thickness. To avoid crab escape by burrowing, the strips are piled about 1.5m deep into the soil with practically no gaps inbetween strips. The high fences are supported by posts at 3m interval and 3 levels of a horizontal cross beams. The posts and the horizontal cross beams are made of the same palm or hardwood materials. The cross beams are nailed horizontally to the fencing strips and the posts at the ground, middle and top level of the fencing. These beams provide support to the tops of the vertical strips. Main perimeter drains of about 0.8m wide x 0.8m deep are usually constructed in the internal area of the pen. While tertiary drains of 0.3m wide x 0.3m deep are sometimes constructed across the pen to connect the perimeter drain. A perimeter plankwalk is usually constructed within the pen. This is for ease of moving around and daily management of the pen. In the center of the pen, natural mangrove vegetation is left intact to provide the natural environment for the crabs to grow.

Figure 4. Plan view of typical 9 x 18 m mud crab aquaculture pen. This is constructed with minimal damage to existing mangrove trees.

In Press Procs. Of Regional workshop on integrated management of Mangrove/coastal ecosystems for sustainable aquaculture development.. 23rd-25th March 1999 (Ed, Mackintosh, D.) Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Figure 4. Section view of a typical 9 x 18 m mud crab aquaculture pen. The walkways and shallow drainage ditches are constructed with minimal damage to existing mangrove trees.

3.4 Culture practice


A range of 4-5 small crabs per sq metre are stocked for the culture operation. Both culture system practice partial stocking over a 1-3 month period. New crabs are usually added to the culture system during the early morning or late in the afternoon. Typically, the wild catch fishers deliver their crabs to a central location where the catch is sorted and small crabs are bought for the culture operations. Regular husbandry for both culture systems is generally a part-time operation for small farms of less than 0.5 Ha. Feeding is done once a day during high tides or nighttime. The crabs are fed with chopped trash fish at 2-4 kg per feeding daily. Feed is placed all around the pond and in the perimeter drains of the pens for the crabs to collect. For pond culture, regular water changes are needed; the stale water is drained out at weekly intervals to allow the pumping or tide driven inflow of fresh salty water into the pond. The crab pens, which are usually located within the intertidal zones, experience a regular daily flushing as the tide flows in and out through the small gaps along the fence. The crabs grow to marketable size in both culture systems in approximately 4-6 months. The crabs are harvested on a semi continuous basis when they reach marketable size of between 3-4 pieces per kg with carapace width of more than 9.0 cm. To improve catch rates for harvesting, the reared crabs are not fed for few days. Harvesting is done during the high tide using collapsible crab trap or crab lift net.