It is with sadness I read in Tripadvisor’s Restaurants Reviews of Port Vila restaurants serving Coconut Crab.
As tourism operators we cannot continue to plead ignorance and wait for the numbers of Coconut Crabs to dwindle to such an extent as to be on the critical list.
We must act now to save and create sanctuaries for them before it’s be too late….at the rate Port Vila restaurants promote and sell them that moment is fast approaching. The coconut crab has everything going against its survival...increasing loss of habitat (areas within 5 kms from saltwater where it needs to lay its eggs is also increasingly inhabited by man). They are also very easy to catch, they reproduce only in their 5th to 6th year of life and live anything from 1km to 5 km from the ocean at which the female must give birth…if they make back to the shores at all. They can live to 50 years and grow to massive size, regrettably each consecutive generation is being eaten before they have a chance to reproduce. The large ones have been hunted out and now we are eating the small ones.
Many young Coconut Crabs are eaten by natural predators (birds, fish, rats, other crabs, etc) before making it to safety on land at which stage they are also very vulnerable (you see them splattered on streets by vehicles as they forage at night). To help things along the adult crab will eat young coconut crabs along with nuts, cockroaches and other dead things it finds on the forest floor. They are scavengers and coconuts are not their primary food sources. Numbers on some islands have been decimated, and now the locals are catching crab from other islands to sell to the tourist trade. Before the tourism trade started they were found everywhere in Vanuatu and covered most of the pacific islands. I know of no Coconut Crab farms (more holding pens of caught ones for selling) and cannot see how they could be farmed profitably as they need access to the ocean plus can climb perfectly vertical walls in addition to their slow development.
I find it ironic that people still refer to the Coconut crabs as delicacies, they are essentially tasteless hence covered in strong sauces to hide that fact, there is no justification for any restaurant to sell it ....except to attract tourists for its novelty factor.
Restaurants should be ashamed destroying this national icon, they should be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
If you are not aware of the facts please Google “Coconut Crabs Vanuatu” for the info.
Hopefully restaurants and their patrons will join us to protect it for future generations.
Quick links on the subject: