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Population structure, catch composition and CPUE of the artisanally harvested mangrove crab Ucides cordatus (Ocypodidae) in the Caeté estuary, North Brazil: Indications for overfishing?

  • Karen Diele (a1), Volker Koch (a2) and Ulrich Saint-Paul (a1)
Abstract

To evaluate the population structure of Ucides cordatus in the Caeté estuary, crabs were sampled bimonthly over 13 months in three Rhizophora mangle forest stands that differed in their accessibility and fishing history. Additionally, sex- and size composition of the commercial catch and catch per unit of effort (CPUE – the number of crabs captured per fisherman per day) were monitored between 1997 and 2003. Average and maximum crab sizes (carapace width, CW) from all three sampling sites combined were 6.1 cm and 8.8 cm in males, respectively, and 5.5 and 7.3 cm in females. Crabs were largest at the site that had been reportedly less exploited in the past. The overall sex ratio was skewed towards males (53−62%). Egg carrying females were only encountered during the rainy season. Mean crab abundance and biomass was 1.7 specimens m−2 and 142 g m−2 fresh mass. Only large males were commercially harvested (98% ≥ 6.5 cm CW). Their biomass was 53 g m−2 and the Caeté estuary yields an annual production of 1200 t of these large specimens. This is approximately the quantity that is currently being harvested. CPUE was similar in 1997 and 1998, then decreased by 15% until 2000 and stabilized for the rest of the study period. Mean capture size (cm CW) ranged between 7.2 ± 0.5 and 7.5 ± 0.2 and was above the size of 50% (and even 100%) male maturity and the legal minimum capture size. There is no evidence that the Caeté crab population is overfished, despite over 30 years of de facto open access exploitation. Apparently, the selectivity of fishermen and consumers for large male crabs as well as the local artisanal capture techniques are key factors in preventing an overfishing of the Caeté crab population until today. Our results suggest that the economic and social sustainability of this fishery will be affected well before the biological one, which should be considered in the recently proposed coastal co-management plan for the region.

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      Population structure, catch composition and CPUE of the artisanally harvested mangrove crab Ucides cordatus (Ocypodidae) in the Caeté estuary, North Brazil: Indications for overfishing?
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      Population structure, catch composition and CPUE of the artisanally harvested mangrove crab Ucides cordatus (Ocypodidae) in the Caeté estuary, North Brazil: Indications for overfishing?
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      Population structure, catch composition and CPUE of the artisanally harvested mangrove crab Ucides cordatus (Ocypodidae) in the Caeté estuary, North Brazil: Indications for overfishing?
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kdiele@zmt.uni-bremen.de
References
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