Indiscriminate hunting of mother crabs in the coastal areas of Patuakhali and Barguna districts during the breeding season is posing a serious threat to the endangered species.
Environmentalists say the number of crabs is declining day by day due to random entanglement in fishing nets, hampering the ecological balance in the region.
In the breeding season, foresters said, crabs from rivers and canals come to coastal forest areas to lay eggs in tree cavities or ground holes on a large scale.
January to March is the reproduction season of crabs.
Mehir Kanti Do, divisional forest officer in Patuakhali, said catching crabs is strictly prohibited in reserve forests during breeding season, but a section of people netted a huge quantity of crabs in the forest.
The government has imposed a ban on catching jatka (hilsa fry less than nine inches in length) for eight months from November to June.
During the time, fishermen get involved in catching and sale of crabs in the vast coastal areas.
Poachers catch crabs by current nets and other traps. One can catch 3/4 kilogram of crabs a day.
A kilogram of crab is being sold at Tk 500 to Tk 700.
Abdus Sobahan, an inhabitant of Baherchar village under Rangabali upazila, said at least 500 poachers are involved in netting crabs in different areas here. They sell crabs in the market, locally called arat.
Many poachers even do not know that crab hunting is harmful to the environment, he observed.
Didarul Ahmed, a crab wholesaler of Kalapara upazila headquarters, said they buy crabs from local poachers when crabs are available in the areas.
“We send crabs to Dhaka as the creatures with hard shells are exported to different foreign countries,” he mentioned.
Sultan Mahmud, dean of Fisheries Science Faculty of Patuakhali Science and Technology University, said mother crab netting will hamper the reproduction of crabs.
If the random hunting of crabs continues, the ecological balance will be greatly affected, he added.