Locally known as kasab or lambay, the blue swimming crab (Portunus pelagicus) is a very important seafood product among the Philippines. It is found all over the country, but the major fishing grounds are situated in Western Visayas, especially in Visayan Sea and Guimaras Strait.
The Blue Swimming crab is a large sized crab, and it has a rough to granulose, broad and flattened carapace. Its legs are flattened to varying degrees, last 2 segments of last pair paddle-like. The female has a duller green/brown color and a more rounded carapace. The male is bright blue in color with white spots and very long chelipeds. They thrive in shallow water areas between 10 to 50 m depth, with sandy to muddy substrate, including areas near reefs, mangroves, seagrass, and algal beds.
The Blue Swimming crab fishing is a traditional fishery that relies on the use of artisanal tools, such as gillnets, crab pots and crab traps. The most common crab fishing gear used are the crab entangling net (pukot pangasag) which consists of panels of meshes that are made up of nylon. Then, crab pots (locally known as bubo pangasag) which are passive gear made up of bamboo and netting material and crab lift net (sapyaw) composed of a bamboo frame and a netting material. The key role in catching crab is played by men. Instead, women are involved in the processing (i.e. picking, sorting, cleaning and ensuring product) and in selling the crabs in the local wet market. Interestingly, women are also involved in the management of several crab processing plants in the Philippines. After catching, primary trading usually happens in the traditional fish landing sites or fish ports. From the trading sites, crabs for local consumption go directly to the local wet markets or are sold directly to the consumers in the landing sites
The Blue Swimming crab is mostly consumed fresh but it is also cooked into soup, such as a tasty local dish made of blue crabs cooked in coconut water, tomato sauce and coconut meat. Then, the crab is used for rellenong alimasag (stuffed crabs), a Filipino dish which is made from crab meat and vegetables stuffed in crab casing. Moreover, being a very important gastronomic product, various cultural events are organised to promote it. For example: the Kasag Festival in the Municipality of Banate (Iloilo), the Ugyonan Seafood Festival of EB Magalona (Negros Occidental) and the Sinigayan Festival in Sagay City (Negros Occidental).
The local fishers are faced with limited supply, as there have been increasing seafood trade activities worldwide by the fishing industry. Because of this, the risk of overharvesting or overexploitation of the Blue Swimming crab is high and the concerns to maintain a delicate balance between the requirements for increased production and economic benefits, as well as the need to conserve and protect the resource for long term sustainability, have been increasing.Back to the archive >