FWC changes stone crab regulations to revitalize population
This past stone crab season has hit rock bottom.

Some stone crab harvest regulations have not changed since the 1970s.

In an effort to prevent overfishing, the  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Wednesday a series of changes to both recreational and commercial stone crab fishing.

The changes include shortening the season by upping the end date from May 15 to May 1, 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 from 2 3/4 inches to 2 7/inches and limiting the 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.

According to an FWC memorandum, commercial stone landings have shown a long-term decline in harvest, leading state officials to suspect overfishing and overexploitation dating as far back as the 1990s. Notably, some stone crab harvest regulations have not changed since the 1970s.

The memorandum said the changes are intended to “increase the stone crab population and add resiliency to the fishery by reducing harvest, reducing release and bycatch mortality, and reduce fishery interactions with egg-bearing females late in the season.”

Stone crab has long been one of the state’s most valuable fisheries. According to FWC, stone crab boasts an annual average dockside value of $19 million.

In recent years, however, average commercial landings have dropped by roughly 22% or 712,000 tons, FWC estimates. The decline has resulted in an estimated loss of $8.3 million in potential revenue at current market prices.

The new regulations are scheduled to take effect Oct. 1.

A full review of the new changes can be viewed online.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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