Fisherfolk warned vs. catching, selling crablets, ‘pregnant’ mangrove crabs

Fisherfolks in Catanduanes were oriented last week on recent regulations issued by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) against the catching, transporting, trading and selling of mangrove crablets, juveniles and ‘pregnant’ mudcrabs.

Under Fisheries Administrative Order No. 264 issued on Jan. 22, 2020, it shall be unlawful to catch, possess, transport, trade and sell mangrove crablets (langaw-langaw, kuto-kuto and “alien”) and mangrove crab juvenile, and mangrove crablets less than 12 centimeters in carapace width from the wild.

The same order covers gravid or female mangrove crabs which are considered pregnant or carrying eggs in cluster at its belly.

Also prohibited are the export of wild-sourced mangrove crablets and juvenile mangrove crabs, as well as mangrove crab breeders, spawners, eggs or fry.

Exempted from the regulation are live matchbox size crablets (5cm carapace width() and bigger for local aquaculture for grow out purposes; live mangrove crabs of 12 cm CW and bigger, including gravid mangrove crabs for local aquaculture intended for hatchery purposes; live mangrove crabs of 10cm CW and bigger sourced from the hatchery and intended for the soft-shell market; and, collection of mangrove crablets and gravid mangrove crabs for research and academic purposes.

Hatchery-bred mangrove crablets, on the other hand, are allowed for transporting, selling and trading provided the facilities are registered with BFAR and with certificate issued by the hatchery stating that the crablets are hatchery-bred.

Growers and collectors must be registered or licensed with the local government unit while the transport and trading of mangrove crabs for aquaculture purposed should be accompanied by Local Transport Permit issued by the Provincial Fishery Officer.

The same FAO also requires LGUs, through the Municipal Agriculture Office, to maintain a Registry of Mangrove Crablets Gatherers, Consolidators, Traders and Growers.

Registered consolidators, traders, and growers shall only buy/collect mangrove crabs from gatheres registered under FishR and with license/permit from the LGU.

Violations of the ban on the catching, possession, transport, sale and trading of crablets, juveniles and gravid mangrove crabs shall mean a fine ranging from P100,000 to P5 million depending on the socio-economic impact and seriousness of the violation, volume and value of the fisheries product, damage to the environment, and habituality of the offender.

On the other hand, violation of the ban on the export of wild-sourced crab breeders, spawners, eggs or fry shall be administratively fined three times the value of the fishery product or P100,000 to P500,000, whichever is higher.

Upon conviction by the court, the offender shall be punished by imprisonment of eight to 10 years, confiscation of the products, a fine equivalent to twice the amount of the administrative fine, revocation of fishing license and/or suspension or revocation of registration as exporter.

In issuing the regulation, BFAR said the gathering of mangrove crablets from the wild for aquaculture and export purposes had gone rampant and unregulated over the years, which may lead to stock depletion and growth overfishing.

It also noted the high mortality during collection and transport of fly-size mangrove crabs while the use of push or scissor nets catch juvenile of other species and contributes to environmental damage.

BFAR officials also discussed FAO No. 265, which regulates the catching, possession, transporting, selling, trading and exporting of puerulus, juvenile and gravid spiny lobsters.

The increasing demand for lobster has resulted in indiscriminate catching, selling and trading of the species, it said, resulting to reduction of potential yield and decrease in economic benefits.

It also cited a significant drop in lobster production from 71.88 metric tons in 2008 to just 6.1 metric tons in 2016 in ARMM, Western Visayas, CARAGA, Bicol and Davao regions which are the main producers.

The regulation declares as unlawful the catching, transporting, possessing, trading and selling of gravid spiny lobsters and juvenile spiny lobsters from the wild measuring less than the maturity carapace length at first sexual maturity. Also banned is the export of puerulus or young spiny lobsters and breeders.

The violations carry the same penalties as that for mangrove crabs in FAO No. 264.

During the orientation held July 3, 2020 at the Catanduanes Convention Center, Governor Joseph Cua said that with the implementation of the new regulations, the province is now gearing up to becoming the Philippines’ top crab and crablet producer.

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