The Kerkenna Archipelago, located 21 kilometers from Sfax (south-eastern Tunisia), is home to the first International Blue Crab Festival, which will take place from 17 to 19 October 2022.
This scientific, cultural, cultural and culinary event was created thanks to the synergy of the two cross-border Italian-Tunisian projects Bleu-adapt “Marine biological invasion and fisheries: research, mitigation and adaptation in the context of climate change” and Med Dé -Co-U- Plages “Sustainable Economics Techniques for Usable Litter on Coastal Beaches”.
It targets the expansion of invasive alien marine species in order to support marine biodiversity and living resources. The event also aims to raise awareness of the impact of plastic waste and the sustainable management of Posidonia oceanica sediments, an endemic sea grass and symbolic habitat of the Mediterranean.
The festival program includes scientific conferences, screenings of films and documentaries, master classes, seminars and round tables that bring together all subjects of the marine environment.
Charfia, a fixed fishery of the Kerkenna Islands, a UNESCO Intangible Heritage, is at the heart of the action. Trips to the sea and visits to these facilities will be monitored by a group of fisheries experts.
An emphasis on environmental actions is also part of the festival’s activities, with the grand opening of the first ecological beach in the Kerkenna Archipelago and the involvement of the fishing fleet in cleaning the seabed, as well as an environmental parade aimed at raising awareness. the general public about the scale of sea pollution, especially plastic waste.
Also on the agenda are competitions for the benefit of the local population, fishermen and their families.
Remember that the blue crab is an invasive species that arrived in the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal. This jeopardized the methods used by small-scale fishermen along the Tunisian coast, damaging the nets and traps used for charfia fishing (a traditional method that uses a fixed fishing gear that blocks the path of fish to trap them).
The first appearance of a blue crab on the coast of Tunisia
With its shell and sharp claws, the blue crab devastates the traps and feeds on other species caught in the traps.
The blue crab was first spotted off the coast of Tunisia in 1993. In 2014, it began to reproduce massively, causing great damage to small-scale coastal fishermen, especially in the Gulf of Gabes, southeastern Tunisia, where it accounted for more than 70% of the catch during the high season.
In a few years, Tunisian fishermen, with the support of FAO, managed to turn this invasive species into an export commodity.
World famous blue crab
The first blue crab processing and sales plant for the Asian market, built by the state in the Kerkenna Islands in 2019, is the origin of a mini-economic boom that has created around fifty jobs locally. The private sector, which initially invested simply in the packaging and freezing of raw products; now interested in finished products for Asia, Italy, Spain and the American continent. Some Zarzis factories even plan to add boiled crab to their catalog to conquer other markets and even Tunisia.
According to FAO, the blue crab ranks fifth among the most sought-after crabs on the world market. It is particularly popular in Asia, the US and Australia, where many restaurants feature it on their menus.