Posted by: Jimely Flores | October 10, 2011

The Blue swimming crab fisheries in the Philippines

The BSC Fisheries in the Philippines

Jimely Flores


The blue swimming crabs (kasag, alimasag, Portunus pelagicus) is the fourth top export fisheries product of the Philippines. From BFAR’s latest statistics (Year 2009) the recorded revenue was about 39.171 Thousands US Dollar (1.8 Billion Philippine Pesos) from a quantity of 4,357 tons of crab (live/fresh/frozen/chilled), crab meat and crab fats. At present there are eight major exporters of crab meat based in the country and most of their produced are going to the USA. The values and number of exporters presently competing really indicates how important this resources are to the country’s economy. Yet…

Assessments of the blue swimming crab condition in the waters are indicating so much pressure to the available stock capital. As early as in the late 1990’s, Ingles and Flores (2000) have been reporting significant decreased in the CPUE (catch per unit effort) of crabbers. Recent interviews of crabbers is even showing more dire situation. In one of my travels to Guiuan last May of this year 2011, a crabber who set his 5-kilometer net in a day catch only 3 pcs of small crabs while his kumpare catch nothing at all. Why?…

Fifty percent (50%) of the Female blue swimming crabs in the Philippine’ waters could only start to bear eggs and produce baby crabs when they grow at a carapace width of 10.5-centimeters while the 50% Male blue swimming crabs matures at 9.65-cm only. The other 50% could mature earlier or even later than the sizes mentioned. Since it is only the female crabs that lay eggs and produce baby crabs it is therefore more practical to at least let the female blue swimming crabs lay their first babies first before catching them. This way we could help ensure that the supply of blue swimming crabs will not diminish. Yet…

We are catching large percentage of the immature crabs, the mature crabs and even the egg-bearing crabs. The figure only shows we are withdrawing not just the interest of the capital but also the capital that is why the supply of crabs from the waters is decreasing. Is there a solution?…

Thumbs up to BFAR, they are now on the process of adopting the Philippine BSC Management Plan. Within the Plan, there are various actions identified:

  • A 10-cm carapace width minimum legal size of landed and traded crabs,
  • Reduction of fishing effort through minimum length of gillnet and number of units of traps/pots
  • Encouragement on the use of environment friendly crabbing gears like bamboo traps and pots over the waste-producer and ghostfishing gillnets and pvc-made pots and traps.
  • Possible closure of fishing ground or fishing season
  • Regular scientific studies (stock assessment, monitoring, research and developments, etc.).

Yet… it is now two year since the process was started and the official adoption is still not being heard of. The sad thing is, there are organizations lobbying for the reduction of the 10-cm minimum legal size agreed upon during the consultations. The 10-cm is the perfect starting point (consensus between the crabbers and the scientist) to start saving the crabs resources. A minimum legal below the 10-cm defies the purpose of the management plan and all the efforts trying to ensure the long lasting supply of crabs in the country.



  1. hello ma’ a masters in biology student of wvsu in iloilo.i want to conduct a study on the crabbers in leganes about the blue swimming crab..any suggestions or comments or valuable information?? thank you


  2. Hi Angelo,
    I am not sure if I responded to you through email but just in case, I have not… let me apologize for this very late reply. Please let me know exactly what are your questions and I will try to answer them or refer you to experts…


  3. hi jim,
    crab processors don’t buy gravid blue crab in their station. this is their mg’t practice to ensure sustainability.


    • Hi Connie,
      Thank you for reading my blogs! May I know if we know each other personally?
      Berried crabs may not arrive in the buying stations because either those were put in cages first for the crabs to lay their eggs (which is a practice dangerous to the ecosystem or just a total waste of money if not done right) or crabbers just pull the eggs off. In my professional fisheries practice berried crabs are caught, bought and processed by the processors/exporters.
      Sustainability management is a wholistic approach. In the Philippines, ban on landing, buying, processing of berried crab may be one of the solutions but not the priority if you measure all the risks.
      I encourage you to read all my past blogs on crab issues in the Philippines so you will have a wide range of info.
      And please let me know if there had been really good news. I am not interested in the white washing activities.
      Thank you Connie! I love your direct way of giving your thoughts!


  4. Hi may I know what kind of net structure can help prevent catching baby crabs or wrong creatures (like turtles)? Thank You for the response if ever


    • Hi Chelsea! Bamboo pots are the best way to catch crabs, this way bycatch or small crabs could always be returned at sea alive. However, the limit here is bait wherein some of their fishbaits are coming from destructive fishing like trawls. Turtles are not really part of the crab fishing bycatch?


  5. And aslo, what place in the Philippines would you suggest to conduct a reasearch about Bintol or Crab lift nets? Thank You!!!


    • Northern Iloilo Province is a good place to start. Iloilo is the entry point.


  6. hello can i get the history of crab pot were it firts introduced in the philippines


  7. Hi Roland, crab pot is one of our traditional fishing method implements. I do not know of a study yet that worked on the history of its use. I also would love to know if there is one.


  8. Hi Jim, do you an idea of what is lying in pen for blue crabs?


    • Hi Froilan, pardon but I did not grasp the question well. Can you please clarify?


      • we are a supplier of marine floating cages here in Phils., we have encountered a project in Panglao, Bohol. The requirement is supply of labor and materials in the construction of Lying-in Pen for Berried Blue crabs. Do you have an idea about the design of this? This is a joint project of LGU and BFAR under the Blue Swimming Crab Management Plan.


      • Do you have an idea regarding the design of Lying-in Pen intended for berried blue swimming crabs?


      • There is actually no prescribed design. However it should be with a size manageable so as to reduce stress on the crab during handling. Also it should not become a part of the marine wastes when it got lost at sea or become a material that will cause ghostfishing. It should also be design to stay in the seabed and not floating as crabs are demersal species and not pelagic.
        Best wishes on your endeavor and I hope you should also partner with them on the monitoring part so these efforts will not just become a part of the whitewashing schemes device by the arms of the crab fishing industry.


  9. Good day Jimely

    Is there website or a way where i can get data of how much crabs are caught in Luzon Philippines


  10. Hi Danilo,
    Try philippine statistics authority but it is not of course super exact.


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