Providencia is a small Colombian island situated in the Caribbean Sea, declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2000. It is home to millions of black crabs (Gerarcinus rurcola), an endemic crustacean that inhabits the island’s dry forests and is the emblem of local gastronomy. Providencia’s inhabitants, descendants of African slaves and British sailors called Raizal, catch the crabs by hand when they come out to feed at night. The crabs are processed the following day in local homes, the body parts are separated and used as the base of soups and other traditional dishes.
The sale of crab meat and claws is one of the main sources of income for the population of Providencia. Only a small amount is consumed on the island, however, with the majority destined for San Andrés’ tourist market. Studies suggest that due to the high number of crabs caught (there is no consensus on the exact number) and the replacement of forest with agricultural land, the population is declining. It is for this reason that the authorities have now im- posed a ban on fishing between April and June (during the reproductive phase) and introduced a minimize size at which the crab is allowed to be caught. The Presidium was created in 2014 thanks to the project “The Providencia Black Crab, Presidium of the Raizal Culture”, coordinated by ACUA Foundation. The aim is to address environmental and sustainability policies to guarantee the survival of the species, with concrete actions to promote the consumption of the crab in local restaurants. Furthermore, the Presidium works to generate new income for local families through the production of crab-based preserves and other products from the land and sea.