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Former aboriginal affairs head now targets hairy crab aquaculture

HUALIEN, Taiwan -- The former head of Taiwan's aboriginal affairs has set his sights on raising hairy crabs in Hualien County after finding that the high quality water in the eastern county is ideal for the aquaculture industry.

"Hairy crab aquaculture will be more lucrative than farming," Walis Pelin, former minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP), said on Tuesday.

Pelin formed an aboriginal company together with some aquaculture experts after he stepped down from his post in 2007, and the firm established a model crab farm in Yuli Township, Hualien County, early this year.

Taiwan began hairy crab aquaculture around three years ago, mainly in western and southern Taiwan, but after inspecting Hualien's environment with aquaculture experts, Pelin believed the eastern county was a more viable location.

"The water quality in the Huatung Valley is good, and the environment is superb for the development of the aquaculture industry, especially hairy crab and sturgeon," he said.

"After we made sure of the superior water and environmental conditions, we did a cost analysis and found that demand was strong while the costs were low and the potential profits high. That's why we've decided to help indigenous peoples raise hairy crabs there," he said.

The hairy crab model farm covers about three hectares. The company initially released 150,000 fries, which have now grown to between three and four taels (one tael is about 37.5 grams.)

"The quality of the hairy crabs in Hualien will by no means be inferior to those raised in western Taiwan, mainly because we have clean water and zero pollution," Pelin said proudly.

His model farm is now developing a feed formula and various types of aquatic plants to boost survival rates and the weight of each crab.

"A hairy crab has to weigh over five taels to have better market value, " the former CIP chief said, confident that "the goal could be achieved in around eight or nine months."

He said the model farm will transfer aquaculture technology to local indigenous peoples and devise a cooperation and marketing strategy to help them develop hairy crab aquaculture farms.

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