I’m not sure what I imagined crabbing involved but I certainly didn’t think it involved tracking through the woods with sticks and flashlights. Andros experiences an invasion of land crabs every summer. I have been told that at the peak of crab season they cover the only major road, Queen’s Highway. Land crabs live all along Andros but migrate to the beach to reproduce. The land crabs here look different from the Chesapeake crabs I am used to on the east coast of the US. They have thicker and rounder bodies. Even more interesting they have detachable claws! Once they clamp on to something, they never let go! This unique characteristic can explain the typical sighting of land crabs with drastically different sized claws.
While I knew Andros had a big crab festival, I didn’t really understand the extent of the land crab invasion until the past few days. While going to dinner at a new friend’s house, I passed by several people walking along the road with white canvas bags. I thought this was strange at 7 pm at night and asked him what they were doing. He patiently explained that they were crabbing. Locals eat and export the catch to other islands where wilderness has been taken over by resorts and shops. Biking around Andros the next day, I noticed the plethora of men, women, and children walking around with white canvas bags. Noticing my peaked interest, he invited me to join him crab hunting later that night.
Shortly after 8:30pm, we arrived on the road by Small Hope Bay Lodge. Armed with flashlights, canvas bags, and covered from head to toe to avoid the mosquitoes in the woods, we left prepared. The road ran through the middle of the mangroves before reaching Dick’s crossing, a small forested area directly across from the resort property. Hiking around the paths in the dark, we could hear scampering and the occasional rustling of leaves. Once my eyes started to adjust, I started seeing crabs of all shapes and sizes through the woods.
The locals talked me through basic crab catching strategy and advised me to approach the crabs from the front while blinding them with light. Then using sticks, we provide a lure for the crabs to clamp down on, occupying them until we pick them up. We use the sticks to occupy their pinchers because they are strong, detachable, and do not release until it is out of danger, so the pinchers may stay clamped down on you even if it detached from the crab! After a few practice tries, I was finally able to corner a medium sized crab. I approached the crab from the front with my flashlight and poked its pinchers with a stick until it latched on. It was moving frantically from side to side. After a few shuffles, I finally circled around it to pick it up, while keeping my light on its eyes. I walked back to Small Hope for a photo op with the crab until releasing it back into the nearby mangroves.
I felt guilty for ruining the crab’s Saturday night but I wanted to try the local customs and experience the Androsian land crab hunt. I hope that my overall impact on the Androsian environment (offsetting Small Hope’s energy use, helping develop better sustainability practices etc) will make up for occasionally pestering the crabs.