Florida Sea Grant Extension in Collier County

Welcome to the Collier County Sea Grant Extension Blog

This blog is an opportunity for me to share with you my extension outreach efforts and useful information to make you a more informed coastal citizen. If you have any questions about what you see, feel free to contact me at fluech@ufl.edu.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Give a Stone Crab a Proper Break!

Arrows point to muscle tissue hanging from a
stone crab claw that was improperly removed.
Image credit: FWC
October means the start of stone crab season, which means many recreational fishermen will try their luck at catching their own crabs. Besides following the seasonal, size, and bag limits, one of the most important things a fisherman can do to help conserve this resource is learning how to correctly remove the claw(s) from his/her catch.

Stone crabs, like other crabs, naturally lose claws from time to time, and the survival rate is close to 100%. In the fishery, however, survival depends greatly on fishermen correctly removing the claws. If the joint linking the body to the claw is left intact, a stone crab has a good chance of surviving and regenerating its claw. After a claw is removed, a thin layer of tissue called the diaphragm instantly acts as a seal to close the wound and stops any bleeding. Claws should never be twisted off as this can result in muscle being torn from the crab’s body. Instead a claw should be removed with a quick, downward snap at the body/claw joint to ensure the diaphragm can work correctly.  

Despite what many people think, it is legal to remove both claws of a stone crab if they both meet the minimum size requirement of 2 and ¾ inches.  Removing both claws, however, will reduce the likelihood of the crab being able to defend itself, and will increase the amount of time it takes to obtain food. The more a crab eats, the more energy it will have to re-grow new claws. A healthy adult crab can regenerate a lost claw in about a year, but it takes up to three years for it to approximately reach its original size. Often the largest crabs won’t even fully regenerate their claws because of their relatively old age. For a full listing of the recreational stone crab regulations visit: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/regulations/stone-crabs/. Happy crabbing!

The arrow is pointing to a new claw bud forming.
Image credit: FWC