Projects

Expanding aquaculture of soft blue crabs: Technology transfer and cost analysis of pond production and shedding

End Date: 8/31/21

Abstract

Production of soft-shell blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, represents one of the oldest aquaculture industries in the United States. The industry is dependent upon the capture of pre-molt (peeler) crabs from the wild fishery which are held in shedding trays until they molt. Declines in commercial landings coupled with continued decreases in recruitment of young crabs to adult populations have resulted in more stringent regulation of the fishery and there is growing concern about the removal of under-sized crabs used to produce soft shells. For soft crab aquaculture to remain a viable domestic enterprise, it is imperative that a sustainable alternative to wild-sourcing peeler crabs be developed. 

A reliable and consistent supply of peeler crabs produced through culture of early life stages would not only eliminate pressure on wild stocks, but would stabilize the existing industry and provide the means to facilitate domestic growth and expansion to meet high market demand. Price paid for soft crabs as well as market opportunities (now available online) have increased dramatically, with value of soft crabs now ranging from $50-$100/dozen. Soft crabs are one of the most lucrative aquaculture commodities produced in the United states.

The overall goal of this project is to expand blue crab aquaculture in the US through the demonstration and transfer of developed protocols for sustainable and economical production of peeler crabs. Objectives include transfer of hatchery and pond production methodologies to North Carolina, transfer of pond production technology to the private sector, development of economic models for hatchery, pond, and shedding phases, and dissemination of project findings through demonstration and outreach materials. This project involves two Sea Grant programs, a private industry partner, a technology transfer component involving Sea Grant Extension support, two diverse geographic regions, and has excellent potential for advancement of sustainable aquaculture of soft blue crabs in the United States.

Objectives

  • Demonstration and regional transfer of developed hatchery technologies for the sustainable production of seed crabs
  • Reciprocal transfer and comparison of regional pond rearing methods to optimize production of peeler crabs for industry transfer
  • Establishing costs associated with hatchery, pond production and shedding phases of soft crab aquaculture
  • Dissemination of project findings to the industry for application