Brazilian Artisanal Mangrove Crab Fishery

Reserva Extrativista de Canavieiras


Mangrove Crab


No seasonal dates identified.

Artisanal Hand Collecting

Coletores/tiradores de caranguejo se deslocam nos estuários e acessam os manguezais utilizando pequenos barcos e capturam caranguejo manualmente. Eles inserem um braço nas tocas dos caranguejos e os capturam com a mão (algumas vezes utilizam luvas) ou com ajuda de um cabo de madeira com um gancho de ferro na ponta. Os caranguejos são coletados vivos e amarrados em grupos de 10 a 20 ou acondicionados em um saco contendo 1 cento para serem vendidos aos compradores locais. É um trabalho árduo e enlameado, uma vez que os coletores passam o dia parcialmente afundados na lama nos manguezais. Essa pesca artesanal é uma importante fonte de renda e alimento para as comunidades rurais localizadas nos estuários costeiros do Brasil.

Harvesting Method

Artisanal Hand Collecting

Fish harvesters typically work in small groups for safety, travelling to the mangrove estuaries in wooden boats and dugouts with outboard motors or paddles. From the river, they enter the dense mangrove forest through small tributaries. They then leave their boats and can sink in the muddy forest floor up to their knees. They search for borrows and collect crabs by hand among the mangrove roots. This technique is called braceamento in Portuguese. Harvesters sometimes use a hooked metal stick called gancho.

Artisanal Hand Collecting

The Canavieiras Extractive Reserve (Reserva Extrativista or RESEX in Portuguese) is a coastal marine federal protected area covering 100,736 hectares in the state of Bahia. There are some 600 to 800 local residents who participate in the fishery. They live in Canavieiras and surrounding villages near the river. Although mangrove crab collecting is typically a man's activity, there are many women who catch crabs too. Women also do several important activities, such as prepare their daily meals and help sort and sell the catch. Crab fishermen also catch other fish species during the year as a result of the seasonal nature of fishing.

Conservation Measures

Within the RESEX, local residents are granted exclusive rights to catch mangrove crabs. RESEXs are established upon request by local residents who design and implement a co-management plan with the government. Within RESEXs, industrial operators and non-residents are banned from participating in the fishery. The mangrove crab fishery is regulated through both federal and state laws outlining harvesting areas, fishing methods, seasonal closures and minimum size limits. Although there is lax enforcement, bycatch and illegal fishing of undersized or female crabs are not major problems given their low commercial value and self-monitoring among fishermen. Conservation measures for the fishery include:

  • Restricting harvesting rights to only local residents;
  • Restrictions on the fishing method to only hand collecting with a hooked tool;
  • Seasonal closures for periods from January to March on new and full moons to protect crab during lunar spawning cycles;
  • A minimum carapace size of 6 cm and low market incentives to collect small crabs since they have little meat;
  • Restrictions on harvesting female crabs in order to protect the reproductive health of the stock;
  • Restrictions on cutting or damaging the mangrove forest in order to protect vital habitat of the crabs; and
  • Restrictions on industrial operators from operating in the RESEX.

In this lobster fishing area, fish harvesters actively participate in scientific data collection and research such as:

  • a comprehensive data collection system on catches
  • scientific sampling of lobsters at sea
  • maintaining catch logbooks and scientific field notebooks

Reserva Extrativista de Canavieiras


Quality and Handling

Fish harvesters collect whole crab live. They are not allowed to sell dead or broken crabs. After collecting, the crabs are tied onto strings of about 10 or more, and then placed in sacks. As part of the Pesca Mais Sustentável initiative, the crabs are graded by size and transported to market in plastic crates with wet foam layers which reduces crab mortality during transportation. Properly handled and stored, mangrove crabs can stay alive for up to seven days after been harvested.


Food Info Mangrove Crab


Colour: Translucent when raw and white to off-white when cooked. The shell turns red when cooked.

Texture: Medium to firm

Flavour: Medium to strong - moist but not oily 

Perfect serve: Mangrove crab is delicious in soups and bisques, or as a filling for seafood tortellini.