Department of Biology, College of Science, De La Salle University, Philippines
Mangrove crab growers in the Philippines still rely on wild-caught late instar to early juvenile mangrove crablets, as supplies from hatcheries are limited. Any batch of crablets caught from the wild is a mix of the three native species under the genus Scylla. Scylla species have different growth rates. Since grow-out culture depends heavily on species' growth, growers should be able to distinguish the species as early as the juvenile stage, which is taxonomically difficult. This study was done to consolidate low-cost traditional identification techniques for juvenile Scylla from fishers of the Philippines for future validation. Focused group discussions were done in fishing communities from Bataan, Pangasinan, and Cagayan on the island of Luzon. The study was continued through online surveys, as travel was restricted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Results indicate that 70.58% of respondents identify the species of crabs by looking at their claws and 55.88% observe the color of the crabs. Almost half, or 41.17% of respondents, consider the width and size of the carapace. Unique methods in certain Philippine regions include observation of the behavior patterns, carapace texture, rate of weight gain, and seasonality. Validation of the traditional practices identified in this study would result in a reliable “at-a-glance” method of identifying juvenile Scylla in the Philippines, which would shorten the culture period, improve production gains, and manage local populations.