As part of Northern Marianas College’s efforts to promote economic diversification and workforce development, its Cooperative Research, Extension, and Education Services (CREES) – Aquaculture and Natural Resources Program secured a $536,000 grant to construct mangrove crab (Scylla serrata) farming demonstration units on the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
The demonstration units, which are funded by a Technical Assistance Program (TAP) grant through the US Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, will be used by NMC-CREES to provide training to any individual who would like to pursue mangrove crab farming.
“I would like to thank the Office of Insular Affairs for their support. We look forward to modernizing aquaculture through methods that are environmentally friendly and that stimulate economic growth in the NMI,” stated CREES Interim Dean Patty Coleman.
Mike Ogo, the program leader for the NMC-CREES Aquaculture and Natural Resources Program, said that the need for economic diversification through new industries such as mangrove crab farming was exposed after the CNMI’s economy fell to destruction of Super Typhoons Soudelor, Yutu, and to the vast restrictions brought upon by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Aside from agriculture, aquaculture can be added to the mix of economic diversification through production of commodities for local consumption but, more importantly, exports that can generate badly needed revenue for the CNMI,” Ogo said. “This project will spur investments in aquaculture and, as a result, new businesses will be created that will cater to seafood loving locals and tourists alike.”
According to Ogo, the mangrove crab is a “high value aquaculture commodity” that can sell at $20-30 per kilogram in the Japanese, Korean, and American markets.
The mangrove crab demonstration units will be built at all three NMC campuses on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. The project will use crab grow out boxes that will be stacked vertically. Each container will have 1,000 boxes allowing a production of 1,000 crabs per crop.
Medium-sized crabs, which take about six months to grow, can sell at $19.00 per piece.
“With these prices, even with the production cost factored in, mangrove crab farmers in the CNMI can still realize a profit and return on their investment,” Ogo said.