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Good season for stone-crab claws closes Tuesday

A Florida stone crab flexes his claws before being returned to the water. The season on stone crab claws ends Tuesday.
A Florida stone crab flexes his claws before being returned to the water. The season on stone crab claws ends Tuesday.

A solid stone-crab season gave Florida Keys trappers “claws” to smile.

“It was a very good, one of the best for us,” Gary Graves, manager of Key Fisheries in Marathon, said Friday.

“Prices were a little lower than last year but they were stable throughout the season,” Graves said. “We sold what we caught and that keeps our fishermen going.”

The seven-month season on harvesting legal sized stone-crab claws — a unique fishery where the crab is returned to the water alive after a claw is detached, only to regenerate — ends Tuesday, although crabs can he delivered to fish houses Tuesday.

Graves said Keys Fisheries expects to make its last haul today. Stone-crab claws rank second only to spiny lobster in importance to the Florida Keys commercial fishing industry. Total numbers for the crab claw harvest and prices will continue to be tabulated by state researchers over the next few months.

Nine Florida counties produce stone-crab claws, with the Florida Keys typically accounting for just under 40 percent of the statewide. Virtually all domestic stone-crab claws come from Florida.

According to the most recent records available, the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission licensed about 1,200 commercial stone-crab fishers statewide, with Monroe County accounting for around 390.

Stone crab season reopens Oct. 15. “This five-month closure occurs each year during the peak spawning season to help conserve and sustain Florida’s valuable stone crab resource,” says the FWC. “Commercially harvested stone-crab claws may be possessed and sold during the closed season, but only if they have been placed in inventory prior to May 16.”

Stone crab traps must be removed from the water within five days after the close of the stone-crab season; no claws can be legally harvested from a trip after the close.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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