Predicting growth is critical in aquaculture, but models of growth are largely missing for mud crab species. Here, we present the first model of natural growth in juvenile and adult mud crabs Scylla serrata from East Africa using a stepwise growth function based on data on intermoult periods and growth at moult from field mark-recapture, pond and laboratory studies.
The results showed a sigmoid growth pattern in carapace width and suggest that S. serrata in East Africa will reach 300 g and sexual maturity ~9.9 months after settlement, and a commercial size of 500 g after 12.4 months. Analyses of the literature identified several issues with the common praxis to compare standard growth measures between aquaculture studies with different initial size or growing periods.
Using the new growth function to estimate the proportional difference between modelled and obtained growth as an alternative method, we show that growth rates of S. serrata cultured in cage systems, which are dominant in East Africa, was <40% of the estimated natural growth and growth obtained in pond systems.
The analysis also indicated that growth rates of S. serrata in Southeast Asia was over 50% higher compared with similar culture systems in East Africa, and that different species of mud crabs had large differences in growth rates. This study shows that growth in the present mud crab aquaculture systems in East Africa is below their expected potential. Further work is needed to identify the factors behind this observation.
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