Background – Species Info – FL Stone Crab

Species Information

stone crabStone crab is a popular seafood species in the Gulf of Mexico. There are two speices of stone crab that occur in the Gulf: Gulf stone crab (Menippe adina) and Florida stone crab (Menippe mercenaria). The Gulf stone crab’s range extends from southern Texas to the Panhandle of Florida, while the Florida stone crab is found from the Panhandle to the Keys and around to the Atlantic Coast of Florida,  and in parts of North and South Carolina. The two species are closely related and where ranges overlap, hybridization occurs (Florida Sea Grant).

A male stone crab mates with a female shortly after she has molted. A single female may produce four to six egg masses during a spawning season, and each egg mass contains up to one million eggs (Lindberg and Marshall 1984). Spawning can occur year-round in Florida. Larval stone crabs are planktonic and feed on zooplankton, while adult stone crabs are opportunistic carnivores. Adult diet will consist of oysters, clams, barnacles, anemones, worms, other crabs, and they will also resort to scavenging if necessary. Stone crabs can likely live up to eight years (Restrepo 2004), but reaching this age is unlikely in fished populations (FWC-Stone Crab FAQ).

Stone crabs drop their claws to escape predators and the claws typically grow back within a year. Because of this, and because the claw is the most marketable part of the crab, fishermen break claws and then return the crab to the water. This makes the stone crab fishery unique in that the whole animal is not harvested. If claws are broken properly, the crabs are more likely to survive and regrow the claw within one year.

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