The plight of the chilli crabs

Mud crab
Crabby does it.

“Juicy!” That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the chilli crab. But consumption habits today if left unchecked, may lead to its demise.

One of Singapore’s delicacies, this sweet and spicy dish is well-known for many reasons – a gastronomic delight, a hit on your wallet, and even the subject of national debate and pride over its origins.

Mud crab (2)
Crab in my hand.

For most of us, the chilli crab is something we order at the restaurant when we feel a need to splurge; we don’t usually think about where our food comes from, only where it goes to. So imagine our surprise when this stir-fried tomato-and-chilli sauce goodness is made from something called the mud crab.

The mud crab (Genus Scylla) is an economically important species of crab commonly found in Asia’s mangroves. While these aren’t the friendliest neighbours to have – they eat their friends who just shed their hard exoskeletons – they are great poster childs for Singapore’s lacklustre reproductivity campaigns, since they produce 1,000,000 offsprings at one go! It’s a good thing too, since they are heavily harvested for our dining tables.

Mud crab research
A crab’s life.

The mud crab is the research subject for Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Applied Science, one of the awardees of Resorts World Sentosa’s Marine Life Fund. $20,000 is committed to this project through the fund. First launched in 2008, the fund administered by Marine Life Park’s Conservation Unit aims to nurture the next generation of biologists, conservationists and researchers.

The two-year project aims to improve the survival rate of young mud crabs, and will focus on species conservation and research, aimed at improving the survival rate of the crabs’ hatchlings and larvae. Efforts will be two pronged: researching a system for farmers to harvest the crabs from nature, and introducing young crabs into natural habitats with the help of conservationists. The polytechnic’s researchers will focus on optimising conditions for mud crab larvae survival, by removing nitrates – a product of their waste that accumulates in the water.

TP mud crab research (1)
Discussing crabs.

Wait, you ask, aren’t chilli crabs in abundance? While this species is currently not threatened, intensive harvesting may put a strain on the population if left unchecked.

TP mud crab research (2)
All serious about crabs.

The research will be useful for more than just the mud crab; results will also be applied to other crab species in the Marine Life Park.

TP mud crab research (3)
One for the camera.

Interested in funding for a marine project of your own? New applications for the Marine Life Fund start from mid-2013. Watch our blog for updates.

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