ANGKOAL, Cambodia — For Ung Bun, a 39-year-old fisherman from southern Cambodia’s Kep province, the days of returning home with bountiful catches of flower crabs seem long gone.
Dragging his net one recent morning, he found only one crustacean. Ung Bun dropped the crab – a male that was too small – into the sea.
“I’m desperate that I can’t catch even one crab after a day, whereas about five years ago I would have caught about 10 to 20 kg (22 to 44 pounds) of crabs. Yesterday morning I caught about four to five crabs,” he said.
He then took three pregnant crabs – females laden with eggs – from a bucket and released them into the sea.
Releasing them and the small male crab was an act Ung Bun would not have done a few years ago, as part of a conservation campaign he participated in this year that aims to ensure a more sustainable future. sustainable for crab catching.
Kep and Kampot provinces are famous among locals and foreign visitors for their delicious flower crabs, but fishermen are concerned about their small catches – a development experts attribute to warmer seas.
Above-normal temperature spikes have become increasingly common in the oceans along the coast of Cambodia since 2010, according to data from the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute.
Increased emissions also cause higher levels of carbon dioxide to dissolve into the sea, lowering its pH. Warmer, more acidic water reduces the concentration of carbonate, a compound needed by shellfish to create their shells.
Overfishing, due to increased customer demand, hasn’t helped either.
The Cambodian government’s crab release campaign dates back to 2010, but this year the government began working with Wild Earth Allies, a nonprofit organization. Since July, participating fishermen have been rewarded with gifts.
When Ung Bun and other participants catch pregnant crabs, they either release them into waters where they are unlikely to be caught or take them home to raise until they give birth. down.
They also stopped using fishing nets with smaller holes to avoid catching young crabs.
But Ung Bun’s participation in the campaign brings even fewer difficulties and tensions in his country.
The day he caught just one crab and released it, he earned just 40,000 riels ($10) for the fish he caught, money he used to pay for a liter of gasoline for his boat. The second-generation fisherman also has two young daughters whose school fees amount to 1 million riel ($240) a month and owes $10,000 on the bank loan he took out to buy the boat.
“My living conditions are extremely difficult now because we cannot catch as many crabs or fish. I can barely afford gas to go fishing or pay my children’s school fees, and so I have problems with my family,” Ung Bun said.
Despite this, he believes in the crab release program.
Ung Bun said she released hundreds of female crabs as part of the campaign, as well as thousands of baby crabs from her “crab bank” – a domestic facility where crab larvae can hatch from their mothers before being thrown into the sea.
READ: Canadian crabs with bad attitudes threaten coastal ecosystem
Crab bank participants receive 50,000 riel ($12) a month from the local fisheries administration, an official said.
Participants are also encouraged to post photos and videos on their social media accounts when the crabs are released to gain greater recognition and acceptance of the campaign.
“If villagers saw my work, many would not understand what I do,” Ung Bun said.
“However, if I continue to do this and the younger generation can see what I am doing, then they will be able to follow in my footsteps and that will help preserve the crabs so that we can harvest them in greater numbers again.”
Italian clam producers fear blue crab ‘infestation’
Warming waters are the main cause of the massive mortality of Alaskan crabs
To subscribe to APPLICANT MORE to access The Philippine Daily Inquirer and over 70 other titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to news, download as early as 4 a.m. and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.
For comments, complaints or inquiries, Contact us.