JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Looking for some delicious stone crabs? Good luck finding the hard shelled critters. The season is not even halfway over and stone crabs are hard to find.
This means you will pay more if you find a lucky restaurant or market with a supply.
"There is a big problem with suppliers. Crabs are limited everywhere." says John Evans at Mayport C&C Fisheries. Evans typically ships thousands of pounds of stone crabs but this year he can't find land a hundred pounds.
Hurricane Irma is likely the cause for this years scarcity since the harvesting season began October 15, just a month before the tropical cyclone ripped through prime crab habitat.
The Florida Keys provides 60% of the states stone crab supply and scientists say the decline may be due to crabs fleeing shallow dwellings for the deep offshore where water is less stirred.
Fishermen are finding very few landings inshore but some catches offshore.
All along the Keys, traps are dockside which is just another hit to a fishing community trying to snap back from Hurricane Irma. Typically about half to three-quarters of a catch is completed by December.
Around Jacksonville you can still find a few places offering stone crabs but the price is higher than last year.
Medium claws that sold for about $18-20 a pound last year are now going for $25 at retail locations and supplies are limited.
Just this week at Safe Harbor Seafood in Mayport prices have increased. Medium claws are 18.95 a pound and 22.95 for the jumbo. Compared to jumbo claws in Miami at $45, local prices remain a deal if you can find some for sale.