Southeast Asian demand fuels crab exports - Share market analysis of dhaka stock exchange, Bangladesh
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09 September, 2014 10:11 AM Source: The Financial Express Bangladesh
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The use of Bangladeshi mud crabs as a delicious dish in China and other Southeast Asian restaurants threatens to pummel the ecological balance of the Sundarbans and coastal areas, rights groups fear.

They say ecosystem of the Sundarbans and coastal belt has already been affected by the indiscriminate hunting of mud crab for exports to China, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. Mud crab is considered to be one of nature's 'ecosystem engineers' for its ability to provide habitats and nutrients to other species.

Exports of this kind of crab have sharply increased over the last decade, resulting in the catastrophic impact on the wild species, which is also known as mangrove crab, green crab, shila kakra, or Scylla Serrata.

According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Bangladesh exported crab worth Tk 3.5 billion in 2013-14 financial year. The export volume has jumped about 38 per cent in the last 15 years, EPB data showed.

China is the major destination of Bangladeshi crab, accounting for as much as 80 per cent of its exports and other destinations are Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea.

Locals told this correspondent that a large volume of crabs and other marine species are also being smuggled to India. The smuggling of mangrove resources including crabs to India will destroy the Sundarbans in near future, they said.

Experts warn that a depletion of mud crab population and other aquatic species will lead to a severe degradation of soil, water, plants and animals in the coastal zone and recommend government's steps to restrict the crab hunting.

Marine Biology and Biotechnology Expert Dr. Kazi Ahsan Habib told The Financial Express unsustainable shrimp and crab collection from the coastal area, especial;y from the Sundarbans has adversely affected brackish water and marine fish stocks.

"As an important part of our estuary system, mangroves mitigate the environmentally adverse impact of the marine ecosystem. It helps reduce the effects of pollution from land based sources," he said adding that escalating pressure on mangroves due to destructive aquaculture and unsustainable resource extraction has brought new danger to the nation's marine ecology.

Dr Habib said mangrove is the basis of complex marine food chain; it helps the coral reefs and colonies to maintain growth, creates critical habitats for fish, filters and assimilates pollutants from upland run-off, stabilises sediment and protects shorelines from erosion.

Marine conservationist and chief executive officer (CEO) of Save Our Sea Mohammad Arju said in the Sundarbans area, the mangrove habitat is on the verge of extinction due to unplanned extraction of natural resources. Coastal areas adjacent to the Sundarbans reserved forest has been devastated by shrimp farming.

"Now, I fear that we are repeating the same mistake on crab extraction. This practice will further degrade the mangrove habitats and reduce the potential of healthy coastal and marine economy. For a sustainable marine economy, we need immediate reforestation throughout the coastal areas," he said.

Some non-government organisations have come up with the initiatives to reforest and conserve the mangrove resources including Mangrove for Future Initiative

National Coordinator of Bangladesh Mangroves for the Future Initiative Anwara Begum Shelly said they have taken several initiatives including creating awareness among the local people and alternative earning sources for people who rely on marine resources.

He said no natural resources are infinite. She said if the government wants to promote export of mud crabs it should introduce hatcheries and nurseries as India, Myanmar and Thailand did for cultivation of farm varieties rather than allowing collection from the nature.

"The government should enforce laws in connection with crab hunting, ban hunting during breeding season, help generate alternative employment for the dependants on crab hunting etc," she told the FE.

Other aquatic resources businessmen, especially shrimp exporters, have several times appealed to the government not to provide no objection certificate to the crab hunters.

A Khulna-based shrimp exporter AH Md. Shahadat Ali said crabs are such species, which affect all the marine resources. If crab hunting is not stopped, the Sundarbans will be destroyed and all other business related to marine resources will come to an end.

He blamed the introduction of crab fattening for the rise in crab export.

According to the business insiders, Satkhira, near the Sundarbans, is the district where 30 per cent of total mud crab are extracted. Parulia of Satkhira is the biggest depot in the region.

Parulia Crab Processing Traders Association President Gopal Bishwash said everyday they process 7.0 tonnes of mud crab in Parulia. The volume fluctuates in different seasons.

 

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