Songkhla Lake, Thailand’s largest lake, is a vital resource for communities in the area. It covers an area of 974 square kilometres, measuring 20 kilometres from east to west and 75 kilometres from north to south. The basin around the lake covers an area of 1,040 square kilometres. Songkhla Lake was once renowned for the abundance of its aquatic creatures, with over 700 species of fish, shrimps, crabs and so on. The economic foundations that helped to sustain over 150 communities living around it.
Fishery statistics show that in the past decade, the number of crabs has continued to decline since overfishing didn’t allow nature sufficient time to replenish itself. Rules and regulations weren’t strictly enforced since crabs were an important economic catch. Ten years ago, a kilogram of blue swimming crab cost 90 baht. Now a kilogram bought at a fishing boat is 350 baht (three to four crabs), and the price shoots up to 500 baht-per-kilogram at the market. It’s alarming to consider what would have happen if the condition of the lake was allowed to worsen and the number of fish and crabs continued to diminish. Not only would the fishermen’s livelihood be at risk, the future of their offspring would have been in danger too.
P.Sap-anan Traditional Fishermen Group was formed with 200 fishermen who relied on traditional fishing gear and who lived in Singhanakhon, Sathing Phra and Ranot districts, integrated both local wisdom and new knowledge to operate the crab hatchery bank and succeeded the higher survival rate.
Recognising the determination and early success of the project, PTTEP Petroleum Development Support Base (PSB) supported P.Sap-anan Crab Bank’s development into the full-scale Learning Centre and Crab Hatchery Ban Hua Khao by building a two-storey building for the group. The upper floor houses a workshop, while the lower floor is a living exhibition space, together with a hatchery and a nursery. Visitors will learn about the process from the hatchery with living creatures.
Injust one night of the process at a hatchery, it produces an enormous number of crabs. Each day the fishermen catch 10 to 50 female crabs of different species such as blue swimming crabs, musk crabs and three-spot swimming crabs. A female crab weighing 100 to 200 grams lays 700,000 to one million eggs. The healthier the crab is, the healthier her eggs are, with the ratio of hatching at around 600,000. A female crab weighing 200 to 300 grams lays 1.8 million eggs, with the hatching ratio of one million. This estimate is based on local wisdom which is adapted in conjunction with academic research.
Eventhough the Learning Centre is supported by various organizations, the villagers still need to sustain its operation by themselves. A sizable budget is required, the members agreed to open a restaurant to earn more income for their learning center operations. Besides nutritional and culinary benefits, the restaurant also aims to build a spirit of conservation among customers. Before sitting down for a meal customers are taken on a tour of the center to learn about the creatures’ life cycle and the need for long-term preservation. It is a simple moves, but would surely contribute a greater benefit in the future.
Meanwhile, PTTEP trusts in the commitment of the villagers. It has also set a long-term goal that in five years, the Crab Hatchery Learning Centre at Ban Hua Khao will cement its operation and philosophy to become a model from which know-how and expertise can spread to smaller crab banks that have the potential to develop into learning centers. More hatcheries will ensure that crabs will always swim in Thai waters, just as the fishermen of Songkhla Lake have proved possible.
Currently, PTTEP implements this project in collaboration with public sector and academic institutions, including the Department of Fisheries, the Department of Marine ad Coastal Resources, as well as local administrative organizations, to work towards the goal of comprehensive conservation of marine resources for the future, and continue to sustainably create value for the communities.
To date, the Project has won 14 world-class CSR awards.
In 2021, PTTEP's Aquatic Animal Hatchery Learning Center Project was expanded to cover 9 provinces along the Gulf of Thailand. The centers, 11 in total, are located in Songkhla, Pattani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani, Chumphon, Prachuab Khiri Khan, Phetchaburi, Samut Songkhram and Rayong. PTTEP plans to increase the number of learning centers to 19, to cover all 17 coastal provinces along the Gulf of Thailand. To date, PTTEP has extended supports for the establishment of a coastal and marine resource conservation network that now covers 42 groups and 2,443 members. A number of 45 fish homes has been installed along the coastal conservation area. Through these learning centers, knowledge on crab and aquatic animal hatchery has been extended to all interested persons.
In 2021,there were 7,127 visitors visit the Learning Centers. The fishermen's revenue is increased to THB 80,768 or USD 2,485 per household per year. About 2,880 million juvenile crabs have been released back to nature each year.
PTTEP has carried out analysis on Social Return on Investment (SROI) of this project by measuring the social impact of the program with the financial quantification calculation (monetization). This method is intended to measure the value of the financial impact of the program that compares to the value of the impact to the cost of the program that has been invested into.
It appears that the value of the SROI ratio is 3.25 : 1