At its July meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved changes to recreational and commercial stone crab regulations.
Florida’s stone crab fishery has experienced a long-term decline in harvest and is likely undergoing overfishing. FWC staff worked with stakeholders on these changes that are intended to increase the stone crab population and build resiliency in the fishery.
Approved changes go into effect Oct. 1, 2020, and include:
- Moving the season end date from May 15 to May 1, closed on May 2.
- Requiring a 2 3/16-inch escape ring in all plastic and wood stone crab traps before the start of the 2023/2024 season.
- Increasing the minimum claw size limit by 1/8 inches from 2 3/4 inches to 2 7/8
- Limiting possession of whole stone crabs on the water to two checker boxes, each up to 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet OR a total volume of 24 cubic feet. Checker boxes are used to hold crabs onboard a vessel before they are measured and legal-sized claws are removed.
Learn more about stone crab regulations at MyFWC.com/Marine.
The main harvest method used in both the commercial and recreational fisheries is a baited trap (Figures 1 and 2). Some recreational crab fishers collect crabs by hand (using scuba or snorkel gear). Most fishermen use traps. In the commercial stone crab fishery, traps are put out in long lines of up to 100 traps where each individual trap is buoyed. Recreational crab fishers are limited to five traps per person and a recreational saltwater fishing license is required by the harvester.
The size of a stone crab claw is considered to be the length of the propodus. The propodus is the larger, immovable part of the claw. Legal-sized (harvestable size) claws are 70 mm (2 7/8 inches) or greater in propodus length. The measurement is taken from the base of the propodus (at the joint of the elbow) to the outer tip of the propodus (Figure 3). In general, male claws are larger than female claws for a crab of the same carapace (shell) size. The largest male claws are about 140 millimeters (mm), or roughly 5½ inches long. The largest female claws are about 120 mm (4¾ inches). The largest stone crab claw collected by the FWRI researchers was 148.9 mm (5 3/4 inches).