Buying and releasing crabs
Cong recently saved another pregnant female spanner crab weighing about 300 grams from a fishermen boat.
Watermen usually sail before dawn and return in the evening, when Cong would be waiting to meet them before their haul reaches a local restaurant. “They knew I only do this to help rebuild the spanner crab population, and let me buy the crab at a discount”, he said.
Cong keeps the purchased crabs at his house in a glass container with air pumps, sand and sea water before releasing them.
He then has some confidants sail him offshore at night to release the crabs. They change the release location every time to avoid the new crab nest being discovered. Cong explains that if they release the crab during the day, sailing boats would just catch them again.
He and his team has been doing this for almost 2 months, saving more than 30 pregnant spanner crabs. Cong also sets up social media groups to raise funds for saving these crabs.
Slowly but surely, his actions are raising the awareness of local fishermen about sustainable seafood. “The people here all make ends meet as fishermen, so at first they were very wary of me, especially since I myself am a trader of local delicacies. But it did not take long to completely convince them of my intention”, Cong explained.
Beside releasing crabs, Cong also use social media to encourage tourists not to consume egg-bearing crabs to cut down demands.
Changing locals’ perspective
Spanner crabs are also called king crabs by fishermen. They were once considered a royal offerings to ancient Vietnamese kings for their beautiful red colors and nutritional values.
Nowadays traders buy king crabs for VND700,000 to 800,000 (about US$30-35) per kilo, and restaurants serve them at US$43-64 per kilo.
In recent years, the waves of tourists to Ly Son Island have put pressure on natural resources and increased demands for seafood including spanner crabs.
A venerable fisherman named Bui Luong who has made a living catching spanner crabs for more than 25 years said he used to hoist up to 30 - 40kg of crabs a day, but only 7 - 8kg now.
Mr. Huynh Ngoc Dung, Deputy Director of Management Board of Ly Son Marine Protected Area, said that king crab lives in sandy area near coral reefs around Ly Son Island, which is an area where fishing activities are allowed.
Many people are even utilizing bottom trawl fishing, destroying the seafood resources, he added.
Female spanner crabs can carry up to 40,000 eggs and brood throughout the year, especially from February to June and from September to October.