Typically found on shallow coasts and in estuaries (where rivers flow into the ocean), mud crabs (Scylla species) are commonly associated with mangrove forests, hence their other name, ‘mangrove crab’. Mud crabs are heavily sought after in Asia especially in Singapore and Malaysia.
Promoted as one of Singapore’s national foods, mud crabs are more commonly associated with the dish ‘Chilli crab’. Found in restaurants all over the country, the crabs are typically stir-fried in a semi thick, sweet and savory tomato based sauce. The main supply of mud crabs to Singapore comes from Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
Mud crab aquaculture
According to trade statistics, Singapore imports an average of 3,300,000 kilograms of mud crab per year in both live and chilled forms. The high demand for mud crabs has led to concerns of over-exploitation. Mud crabs are currently being collected from the natural environment and grown in farms to a marketable size. Researchers are attempting to complete process from fertilisation through to maturity, and subsequently starting the cycle all over again.
Temasek Polytechnic (TP) has been awarded the Marine Life Fund (MLF) by Resorts World Sentosa for its project on mud crab research. The aim is to define the developmental processes for mud crabs; improving the survival rate of hatchlings and larvae. This information could help to provide a sustainable supply of mud crabs and therefore reduce the strain on wild catch populations.
The TP team will also work with conservationists to re-introduce juvenile mud crabs into natural habitat as well as with interested farmers in the aquaculture industry. In addition, the knowledge gained from the research can be adapted for breeding other crab species currently cared for at the S.E.A. Aquarium.
To date, much success has been achieved and the team has managed to grow the mud crabs to the final stage of its development. The research is still in progress as the team explores these techniques to complete the cycle.