Ecosystem Considerations – FL Stone Crab

Habitat Impacts, Bycatch, and Discards

Habitat Impacts

Traps are the predominant gear used to harvest stone crab. Stone crab traps are a cost effective gear allowing for high productivity and provide live catch. FWC authorizes take of stone crab only by means of traps made of wood, plastic, or wire (F.A.C. 68B-13). Crab traps are generally considered to have low impact on the environment due to static placement and because they are typically set on sandy or grassy bottoms with scattered rocks, sponges, soft corals or small coral heads, at the margins of seagrass flats, or bottoms with low rocky relief (2009 Biological Opinion). The stone crab fishery has been evaluated in the GMFMC Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Generic Amendments, which define stone crab habitat and evaluate fishing impacts from traps. The EFH amendment notes that while stone crab traps are often associated with corals, traps are not placed on coral, rather nearby (GMFMC EFH Generic Amendment 1).

Bycatch and Discards

The Florida commercial stone crab fishery is a trap fishery with low bycatch mortality of other species. Incidental catch includes benthic invertebrates, including undersized stone crabs, and smaller fishes,  which are typically released alive. Blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) and spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus) are also sometimes caught in stone crab traps and fishermen may retain these species for personal consumption under recreational regulations, or for commercial use if they possess the proper endorsements (FWC). Bycatch of the fishery is limited to species that are capable of passing through the throat of the trap (5 ½” x 3 ½”) and species caught incidentally are either retained or released alive (FWC Commercial Saltwater Fishing Regulations Guide). FWC mandates that plastic traps have a degradable wooden panel that is 5 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches and is made of cypress or untreated pine slat no thicker than ¾ of an inch, which minimizes the risk of ghost fishing should a plastic trap be lost (FWC Stone Crab Recreational Regulations).


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