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Florida stone crab at peak prices as slow local season ends

As the stone crab season ended this week, the prices may have more to do with a huge demand for the crustacean than ups and downs in the catch around the state.

So far, the state has registered a 1.7 million pound stone crab catch, which would seem to be significantly less than the 2.7 million during the 2012 season. But with most of the catch documentation between February and May still to be processed by the Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife, it’s likely that final catch numbers will be similar to the past four years.

Wholesale prices for Florida stone crab jumped about 26 percent this year, to an average across all claw sizes of about $12 a pound, according Fish and Wildlife data.

A combination of a good catch last fall, a local decline in crabs and big consumer demand have made the Florida stone crab a commodity. It has caused some restaurant and market owners to look further afield for a steady supply of crabs, and to consider alternative crab species to satisfy demand.

At the same time, state officials who monitor the crab fishery are looking forward to a day when Florida crabbers put out fewer traps and come up with healthier catches.

 

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