Marine Ecologist calls for conservation of land crabs

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By Robert A. Emmanuel

Marine Ecologist Ruleo Camacho says there needs to be increased education to reduce the over-exploitation of certain creatures, particularly land crabs and sea cucumbers.

Last week, Camacho submitted an article to The Daily OBSERVER entitled “Over-exploitation of unmanaged environmental resources” where he talked about the overabundance of land crabs being served at events and the recent reports of foreigners removing sea cucumbers from their habitat.

During a follow-up interview on OBSERVER AM yesterday, he explained the rationale behind penning the article.

“Culture, as it relates to the environment, can become very sticky because with a lower population, the environment can deal with the stresses. But as the population increases and these cultural habits continue to be pursued … the environmental health is not increasing, rather it may be degrading in health,” he said, adding that the article was merely geared towards starting a conversation.

Crabbing—or the capturing of land crabs for sale and consumption—has been a mainstay of Antiguan culture for many decades.

As Camacho noted, a reduction in the catching of land crabs – particularly during the rainy season when crabs tend to engage in mating and egg-laying – will help to ensure that the tradition of crabbing continues for generations to come.

“The reason why you see a lot of crabs when it rains is that their holes are filled up, they come out and it encourages mating behaviour … and if you think about it that way, then we are exploiting this resource when they need to mate; so for a while it is fine, but over time you are reducing the breeding population and the stock is going to fall,” he said.

Camacho further explained that ensuring the conservation of land crabs also benefits the mangrove population in soil nourishment.

The marine ecologist called for the public to engage in “self-management” and not solely rely on the Environment Department and its subsidiary bodies to police the fishing, capturing and sale of marine creatures.

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