History of the Florida Stone Crab Fishery

stone crab clawsFishermen in Florida have been harvesting stone crab since the 1890s. During that time, stone crabs were incidentally caught in spiny lobster traps in the Florida Keys. While stone crab was harvested in Florida through the twentieth century, it was considered a developing fishery until the 1990s. FWC began recording the number of traps in the water in 1962, and at that time there were 15, 000 traps being fished that landed 650, 000 pounds of stone crab with a value of $236, 755 (Muller et al. 2011,  NOAA OST- Commercial Landings). Since then, the fishery has grown rapidly and dramatically. By 1992, there were 700, 000 traps in the fishery, and by 1998 that number had doubled to 1.4 million (Muller et al. 2011). In 1998, 7 million pounds of stone crab claws were landed in Florida worth $23 million. To address a growth in effort and the dramatic increase of traps in the fishery, a stone crab Trap Limitation Program was approved in 2000 and implemented in 2002. This program requires a certain percentage reduction of traps being sold or transferred between individuals. The percentage varies based on the number of traps being transferred (F.A.C. 68B-13.10). Number of traps has slowly decreased since then to 1.3 million in 2010 (Muller et al. 2011).

In 1976, Congress passed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), which is now the primary law governing fishery management in the U.S. MSA established eight regional management councils, including the GMFMC, with the responsibility of developing fishery management plans (FMP) to comply with ten national standards designed to promote sustainable fisheries management (MSA). Since the stone crab fishery extended into federal waters, the GMFMC published the Stone Crab Fishery Management Plan (FMP) in 1979. FWC and GMFMC managed the Florida stone crab fishery jointly until 2011, when the federal FMP was repealed and turned management jurisdiction for the entire stone crab fishery over to the state of Florida.



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