Submitted by admin on Tue, 02/11/2014 - 02:47
February 11, 2014 by admin
General News
A new climate change adaptation strategy is taking off in Palau – community rearing of mangrove crabs. Farmers are being supplied with young crablets under the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC) project, which is working to improve food security in the small island nation, and in particular to tackle the over-reliance on imported foods. A distribution of crablets in early February took the total to several thousand crabs that have been handed over to farmers over the last three years.
PACC Palau team with members of the Palau Aquaculture Famers Association during a recent crablet handover

This is part of the third major distribution since the project began. "We gave the first batch to just two farmers, in 2011," said aquaculturist, Miguel Delos Santos, who is managing the activities for the PACC project at the Palau Community College hatchery in Ngaremlengui State. Miguel oversees the reproduction and early stages of the crabs, up to a size when farmers can take over and rear them. "Interest has been really growing, and many more people are seeing the potential of raising crabs, to eat and also to sell," he said.

Mangrove crabs are a traditional part of the Palauan diet, especially at custom feasts, and are also in high demand by hotels and restaurants. However, numbers harvested from the wild have been dropping, partly due to unsustainable harvesting. The project is addressing this by supplying small crabs to farmers and supporting them to rear the crabs to marketable size in submerged cages. In 2013 the hatchery also released nearly 400,000 crablets into the ocean at two conservation sites, in an attempt to boost mangrove crab populations.

The work has not been without challenges. The crablets have a tendency to cannibalism when density in the breeding tanks gets too high, and numbers can fall very quickly. "But we can't give them to the farmers when they are too small, because of the mesh size in the cages – they will simply escape," explains Miguel. He is carrying out research to try and reduce losses in the hatchery, and also assisting farmers with cage design.

"The PACC project in Palau is focusing on improving food security in the face of climate change," says project coordinator Madelsar Ngiraingas. "In addition to the aquaculture activities, we are also working on lowland taro production, which is currently under threat from saltwater intrusion, as well as developing diverse upland agroforestry systems. We essentially have a 'ridge to reef' project that is supporting Palau to be more self-sufficient for its future food needs."

Palau is one of 14 countries that are participating in the PACC Programme, which is the largest climate change adaptation initiative in the region. Projects under the Programme focus on one of three key climate-sensitive sectors – food security, water resources, or coastal zone management. The Programme is funded by the Global Environment Facility and the Australian Government with support from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Climate Change Capacity Development (C3D+). The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is the implementing partner, and the United Nations Development Programme acts as implementing agency.