Land crab study under way

A seasonal menace to motorists and a tasty target for crabbers, Cayman’s land crabs are a familiar sight throughout the island. 

However, little data exists on the population size and habits of the species. 

A new study aims to change that. 

Researchers will collect basic biological data, estimate white and black land crab population sizes and determine peak breeding seasons for the species. 

Jane Haakonsson of the Department of Environment’s Terrestrial Resources Unit said the project would help determine if the populations are sustainable. 

“Land crabs are economically significant as a local food source. Harvesting pressure and rates of roadkill are unknown, but is suspected to be increasing with the island’s growing human population and vehicular traffic,” Ms. Haakonsson wrote in an outline of the study for the Department of Environment’s Flicker magazine. 

She told the Cayman Compass the study would help determine whether any harvesting limits need to be considered in a management plan for the species. It will also look at the impact of development and habitat loss on the species. 

She said the study would focus on the area along the Queen’s Highway east of North Side and Barkers National Park in West Bay, where crabs are most commonly seen. 

“It is basically a population assessment and a study of critical reproductive time frames and migratory routes,” she said. 

Both species, black and white land crabs, are commonly seen crossing roads as they migrate from their inland habitats to the ocean between May and August. 

Ms. Haakonsson said the study would be valuable in managing the species and determining any conservation measures that might be necessary. 

Kinsey Tedford, a graduate student of Dr. David Bass, the Department of Environment’s visiting invertebrate specialist, will lead the study with assistance from the DoE. 

Initial research took place in May, with the main study planned for summer 2016. 

The Flicker article notes: “This study also has the potential to benefit society by serving as a model for other locations concerned with protecting land crabs or other species facing similar situations. Solutions provided in this research are relevant because habitat destruction, road construction for motorized vehicles, and human consumption of wildlife are increasing problems.” 

White land crab populations will be surveyed in the study.

White land crab populations will be surveyed in the study.

Land crabs leave their inland habitats to migrate to coastal waters during mating season.

Land crabs leave their inland habitats to migrate to coastal waters during mating season.


  1. When I first moved to Grand Cayman 33 years you could rely on seeing many land crabs crossing West Bay Rd. to 7 mile beach.
    For the last few years I have seen zero doing this.

    They have just about been wiped out in this part of the island.

    Likewise, when driving through East End it was almost impossible to drive along at night time without crunching some.
    More recently there are still some there, but far less.

  2. So if we find out "development "is going to decease the amount of crabs. Can I sell the crabs from my land? They were born on my property. They should be mine.Can I put a NO taking CRABS on my property " sign . I know they need to wash their spawn but I could put them in a box and cross the street to the public beach. Once they wash their spawn I could take them back to my property ? This could be like selling mangoes a new cottage industry.
    This would be a win win situation because there would be less crabs running across the road and getting killed.

  3. I do support the Cayman white crab is also becoming endangered; not only the white crab, but also the black, the brown and the blue are already depleted and hard to find. I remember days gone by these crabs were a craved delicacy on every Caymanian table during hunting season; however now I have heard many locals say that they can hardly get a meal’s worth anymore.
    What has really happened is that by people population increase we see persons who are not from the Island hunting them in a way unknown to us. They are now being dug out of their holes and some even caught with spawn, even the babies are caught and used for soups. Now a Native Caymanian would not do that, never would they catch and keep a spawn crab, the babies, or dig them from their holes. If we keep catching the spawn crabs and their babies to make soup there soon won’t be any left.
    Also building construction has caused holes to be covered and the crabs has little space for habitat. I believe the catch should be restricted to natives only; with other persons having to obtain a license. After all in about five to ten years I am sure there will only be a few around.

  4. I disagree. Caymanians, and everyone else are hunting crabs. Just like fish and conch. Where are the authorities to stop this. Show me a human being, and I”ll show you disregard. Live and let live.

  5. Yes… I can already see where this is going… Let”s let DoE ban crabbing for 8 years, until the cars are crushing most of them again… Why don”t we add that to the list of reasons why the dock should be stopped while we”re at it.

    Has it occurred to anyone that crabs (like fish and other animals BTW.) move around as they adapt to their surroundings? Crabs move for more food, better mating, more shelter and better/wetter habitat for spawning. Because we aren”t seeing the same amount of crabs being crushed by cars on WB road, doesn”t mean that less crabs are being born because of humans or they are all eaten by locals. It also doesn”t mean that if you regulate crabs, that more crabs will end up in West Bay. Crabs are very migratory animals.