The government of India’s Maharashtra state has begun promoting a specialized form of crab farming that may help save mangroves in its coastal regions.
The government program, labeled the Mangrove Protection and Employment Generation Scheme, has chosen 50 villages for its initial program, which will run through 2017-18. By 2020, the scheme is expected to cover 75 villages, Mangesh Gawade, an official with the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), told SeafoodSource. In these villages, chosen for their proximity to mangroves, experts will help the community set up crab, oyster, and mussel farming operations.
Gawade told SeafoodSource that the success of the authority’s pilot program implementing the farming of mud crab (Scylla serrata) in Malvan, Vengurle, and Devgad – all located along the Konkan coast – had helped convince the national government to expand. The scheme has since been spread over Dahanu, Palgarh, Bhivandi, Alibaug, Ratnagiri, Chiplun, Sawantwadi and other talukas (district councils).
“Though the program is now being implemented by the state authority, our expertise can [still] be used to make this project successful,” Gawade said. “The crab farming will not only help farmers with additional income, but also save marine ecology.”
Gawade said increasing villagers’ reliance on the mangroves will incentivize them to preserve the fragile marine areas. In addition, mangroves are prime crab-raising areas, and there is no capital cost involved. The program has an economic development piece as well – each fully grown crab will fetch farmers INR 1,000 (USD 15.30, EUR 13.20) after nine months of harvesting, Gawade said.
The initial investment the scheme has made in the project is approximately INR 150 million (USD 2.3 million, EUR 2 million), which includes not only crab farming, but also ornamental fish farming and cage culture farming. But the the country has applied for a grant from the Green Climate Fund, created by the United Nationals Framework Convention on Climate Change, in hopes of expanding the crab-farming project to other states, including Andra Pradesh and Odisha, the Economic Times of India reported.
Titus Yesudas, owner of Jolly Marine Exports, told the newspaper that demand for live Indian crab is high, but that his business has suffered due to recent shortages of product.
"Even when we export 80 kg, we have to pay the flight charges of 100 kg,” he said. “At a time when the government has slashed export incentive, it is difficult to continue exports in the current circumstances.”
The Indian government has said it hopes to stabilize and even increase supply through the new initiative, the paper reported.