World Food Spot 3 : Mangrove Crabs

Bottom view

Top view

Mangrove Crabs are Ecologically significant……..
“Mangrove crabs have been shown to be ecologically significant in many ways. They keep much of the energy within the forest by burying and consuming leaf-litter. Furthermore, their feces may form the basis of a coprophagous food chain contributing to mangrove secondary production (Lee, 1997; Gillikin et al., 2001). As mentioned in Robertson et al. (1992), crab larvae are the major source of food for juvenile fish inhabiting the adjacent waterways; indicating that crabs also help nearshore fisheries. Crabs themselves are food for threatened species such as the crab plover (Seys et al., 1995; Zimmerman et al., 1996). Their burrows alter the topography and sediment grain size of the mangrove (Warren and Underwood, 1986) and help aerate the sediment (Ridd, 1996). Smith et al. (1991) found that removing crabs from an area caused significant increases in sulfides and ammonium concentrations, which in turn affects the productivity and reproductive output of the vegetation. Their findings support the hypothesis that mangrove crabs are a keystone species. (for cited references see mud crab, Scylla serrata (family Portunidae) is an economically important mangrove crab found in the estuaries of Africa, Australia and Asia. When they molt their shells, they can be served as a seafood delicacy, one of many types of soft shell crab. “
(This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article “Mangrove crab”. )
……………and Very Tasty!!
I have tried lobster and crayfish. They are good, but the king of the pot amongst the crustaceans for me has to be the mangrove or mud crab. Some skill is needed to eat this as there are a lot of bones or pieces of shell in the way. However, in comparison with lobster, I would say that the meat is smooth, tender to the point of melting in the mouth and sweeter.
The most common way of cooking it is in a chilli sweet and sour, rice vinegar based sauce. This remains my favourite as the sauce seems to complement the sweetness of the crab excellently and the sauce itself is delicious with bread or rice. Other popular ways including steaming with ginger or baked crab – both these methods have the advantage of retaining the natural flavor of the crab as much as possible. The crab can also be served fried with black pepper, fried with curry leaf or fried with butter and egg or even fried with marmite (yeast and vegetable extract for the non-British/Australian/NZ readers).
After View

Photocredit: Bucks in Oz

These crabs used to be plentiful. Today, due to over-harvesting, pollution and clearance of mangroves, in most parts of Malaysia, the remaining crabs are too small and are of poor economic value. The good seafood restaurants have to import the crabs from nearby Indonesia but even there, the crab populations are similarly under threat. For all of us, to continue enjoying this delicious delicacy, we must stop the decline in mangrove forests along the whole equatorial belt. In Malaysia, the mangrove areas have declined 50% in the last 50 years largely because they were considered undesirable and cheap lands for development.
Today we continue to try to pass the message that “Mangroves are not Wastelands” contrary to that, they are important to shoreline stability, removal of pollution, protecting the freshwater table and act as nursery for marine and coral fish and other aquatic organisms. Interestingly, the South Asian Tsunami of 26th December 2004 dramatically demonstrated the importance of mangroves in that many places which still had coastal mangroves including Malaysia did not suffer as seriously from damage and loss of life as areas which had cleared their coastal mangroves.

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