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Soft Shell Crab Cultivation Challenges

Soft Shell Crab Cultivation
Farmers are not interested in soft shell crab cultivation in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.
The reasons are price dropping and limited size for exports due to new regulation set by the local maritime authorities.

Soft shell crab are the name for mangrove crabs. Their entire body is soft due to the replacement of shells, claws, and feet.

Currently only left 3 soft shell crab farmers in Balipapan compared 8 before.

“Many left soft shell crab cultivation industry.” said Syamsudin. He is one of the soft shell crab farmers who survived in Teritip Village, Balikpapan Timur.

Syamsudin only cultivated 1 ton of soft shell crab monthly compared 3-4 tons a month before.

Hong Kong and China, like soft shell crabs with sizes below 120 grams.

According Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Circular Letter Number 18 of 2015. Catching lobster, crab, and blue crabs must meet the standard weight size of at least 150 grams and above. Those below 150g grams are not allowed to export outside Indonesia.

Reasons of soft shell crab cultivation drop.

Soft shell crab farming has narrowed. Syamsudin is fortunate enough to harvest 200 to 300 kilograms of soft crab per month.

Foreign markets are not interested in the size of 150 grams and above.

They like the small one, 80-120 grams. Due to supply more than demand. The price drop and affected the soft shell crab farmers.

soft crab pond

Challenges faced by local crab farmers.

Farmers who are unable to survive will switch to other businesses. They stuck in high rent cost and forced to go out of business.

Tarman is now opening a dug well whose water is flowing into neighboring houses. Yadi, another farmer, also switched professions. He rented a small kiosk on the edge of town and sold birds at the kiosk. “He brought in birds from Java and sold them there.

Syamsuddin claimed to have survived the soft crab business despite a tough situation. Now he only have one worker working for him compare to 3 workers before.

His business was successful with the production of 200 kilograms of crab every day. Now production continues to shrink to 300 kg per month due to price reduced.

The price of soft shell crabs, which last year was Rp. 120,000-Rp. 130,000 per kilogram, a few months now dropped to Rp. 65,000 per kilogram.

However, Syamsudin will continue to survive the business he initiated since 2006. Now he has owned the farm.

After all, he said, three of the four children were independent. Family expenses are not as big as before.

“The farmers who rent the land suffered the most. Because the rental is very high” Syamsudin said.

Indonesia Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Agency

Balikpapan Head of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Agency M Yosmianto acknowledged that the inconvenience of the soft shell crab business in the period of adjustment since the enactment of Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Regulation No. 1/2015. He said, the current pond production is large soft shell crab, different from  market expectations that want below 120 grams.

According to Yosmianto, the enactment of the regulation actually triggered the smuggling of crabs via land. “We only succeeded in preventing inter-island interference. But the land is difficult,” he said.

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Soft Shell Crab Farming

soft shell crab cultivation


Soft Shell Crab cultivation is a business opportunity that bring good profits. Therefore soft shell crab is getting more and more popular as we can eat all parts of its body.
Eating crab is easier as no need to scrape the hard crab shells to pick up the meat.
The mud crab / mangrove crab (Scylla serrata) has five pairs of legs. the first pair of legs are claws; the others are legs for walking and the last pair is for swimming in the sea.
Successful soft shell crab cultivation depend on few criteria:
1. Pollution Free Land
2. Good Management
3. Superior Juvenile

There are several kinds of mangrove crabs:

  1. Scylla Oceanica: Body color is greenish and has a brown line in almost all parts of his body, except in the stomach.
  2. Scylla Serrata: Body color – greenish to grayish.
  3. Scylla Transquebarica: Body color greenish to blackish. A little brown line on the legs.

Scylla Serrata size is smaller and has higher market demand compare the others two.

Mud Crab Molting Its Shell

Mud Crab Molting Shell

Business Opportunities of Soft Shell Crab Farming

The demand for soft crab is increasing. Especially if our surrounding has the right environmental situation to breed the crabs.
Soft crab cuisine is not so popular in Chinese or Malay restaurants. But getting more and more younger generations like to eat this type of seafood.
In Malaysia, Soft shell crab is available through out Japanese restaurants. They either served with sushi or deed fried.
Some of the Thai restaurants served the soft shell crab with green curry or mix in “Songtam” – mango salad.
It is not easy to breed soft shell crab. We need to learn the techniques of crab cultivation in a proper manner.

Farming Soft Shell Crab Preparation

Below, we will discuss how to cultivate soft shell crab and tips that make it successful.

1. Choose the Right Location

a. A clean, clear and uncontaminated location with a salinity level of 15 to 35 ppt.
b. Water temperature of 24 to 32 degrees Celsius.
c. Dissolve oxygen of 3 ppm and a water pH of 6.5 to 8.5.
Most importantly the farm is located in the vicinity of growing mangrove plants. The environment in terms of temperature and water is most suitable for the growth of mud crab.
Generally pond land used is sandy mud. While the depth of the pond should not be less than 80 cm.
Traditional ponds that used to breed milkfish or shrimp are suitable as well.

2. Prepare the Equipment

Tools needed for the cultivation of soft shell crabs:
a. Thermometer,
b. PH meter
c. Test kits to measure water quality.

3. Juvenile Selection


Juvenile suitable to cultivate into soft shell crab is weight around 0.1 ounces to 0.5 ounces.

4. Create a Cage for Soft shell Crabs

soft shell crab cultivation
a. Cage – form of boxes with the size of 15 cm x 15 cm x 20 cm.
b. Boxes put on top the pond surface.
c. Create a road made of bamboo between the order boxes to assist farmers to observe the soft shell crab when they change the skins.

Techniques on Soft Shell Crab Farming

Breeding soft crab is easy, but it takes special skill and experience to do it.
a. We need to understand the technique of breeding soft crab before practicing it.
b. Cutting is the process of farming the soft shell crab. Cutting the legs and claws of Juvenile crab is to stimulate the crab going into molting stage.
solf shell crab molting
We put the crab Juvenile into the cages after cutting their legs and claws. Then immerse it into the pond.
The process of cutting until harvest will only last for 14 days.
If it is too long then the shell that has entered the softening stage can be harden again.
We use shellfish, trash fish and pellets to feed soft shell crabs. We chopped the shellfish and trash fish into smaller pieces before feeding the crab.

Tips on Caring and Harvest Soft Shell Crab

Successful of crab survival and molting very depend on water circulation. If the water circulation is not good, many crab will dies.
We can spread anti-pest drugs into the water to control the pest from eating the crabs.
During harvest period, we pick up soft shell crabs from the box. We choose one by one and separate the good and reject one, then soak them in fresh water for 30 minutes. After that, we will pack them one by one in plastic bag and frozen it live.
Below is a video on our packing of live soft shell crab.

Success Tips and Marketing Strategies

Always keep the quality of soft crabs, separate between the good quality and the less good in order to make sure consumers are not disappointed when getting less good soft shell crab.
For soft shell crab that quality is less good we can sell at lower price.

Preparation for Cooking: How to Clean Soft Shell Crab