To catch mud crabs [locally known as Kikoon] was once considered a sin by the fishermen of Keti Bunder, Kharo Chhan and others coastal areas of Sindh. But now they don’t only bring in good business, they also ‘enhance the strength’ of the fishermen - or so it is believed.
“People used to throw them [mud crabs] back into the sea but now almost every second person, including children, catches them,” disclosed the president of United Community Development and Welfare Organisation, Shakeel Memon. “Catching crabs takes less time than catching fish, which is one of the reasons why the trend has increased.” The market for crabs has also expanded over the years and since catching them requires less manpower and other resources, more fishermen are going after the shellfish.
Irfan Khaskheli, 15, who has been going to the mangrove swamp for the last five years, said that around 250 residents of Keti Bunder catch mud crabs and earn enough to support their families. “The catchers drink crab soup at least once a week as they believe that it enhances their strength to remain in the water for hours,” Khaskheli told The Express Tribune. While catching the crab takes a few hours, the fisherman has to remain in the creek the whole day for his boat.
“I spend about Rs1,000 daily, which includes food, gutka, feed for crabs and boat fair,” Irfan told The Express Tribune in the middle of Narri Creek. “Excluding that, I make Rs20,000 a month on an average which is good enough.”
Khaskheli is the sole supporter of his 13-member family. He leaves his home when Fajr Azan is echoing in Keti Bunder. His fellow fishermen gather in the middle of the town with their packed lunch boxes and buy feed before going out into the sea - this is their everyday routine except for on Friday. They go into different creeks near Keti Bunder, including Hajamro Creek, Dadi Wari Creek, Khooni Creeek, Marwari Creek and Bandho Creek.
Mud crabs have become popular among the fishermen of Keti Bunder, Kharo Chhan and others coastal areas of Sindh. The fishermen leave the town at the time of Fajr prayer and after catching the mud crabs, tie them with a plastic rope and keep them in a plastic box. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS
Khaskheli’s father and two elder brothers are also involved in the business —they purchase the crabs from local catchers and transport them to Karachi. It is also a risky business, he said. “It is very dangerous if the insect bites you,” he said. “Be very careful so that you don’t touch its claws.”
The crabs were kept in a plastic box carefully and all of them were tied with a plastic rope.
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum’s spokesperson, Sami Memon, pointed out that children should not be involved in this business as it puts them at risk. “It wasn’t the tradition of fishermen to engage their children in this business but the lack of resources and tight economic conditions have compelled them to involve almost the entire family,” said Memon. “This practice indicates that fishermen are still not interested in education.”
He also highlighted the problems faced by fishermen. “The fishermen don’t get rich in their lives. They earn just a little and then they die. It is the state’s responsibility to make arrangements for a better standard of living,” he urged.
There are about 20 collection points and according to Memon, local fishermen suffer due to variation in rates. “They are not paid well. The traders exploit the situation and there is no check and balance.”
The people of Keti Bunder believe that with the support of the government and with reasonable rates and facilities for fishermen, the revenue could be more. “We need support,” remarked Allah Jhurio, who sells feed for crabs. “We are rich with resources but lack facilities.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2013.
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