A disastrous stone crab season for Florida Keys commercial fishermen ends today.
Fishermen were paid a lot more for stone crab claws this year, but production was so poor that it wasn't lucrative.
Last year, commercial fishermen got about $18 a pound for jumbo claws, $12 for large and $7 to $8 for mediums.
This year, the price for jumbos soared to $23 a pound, large claws went for $16 to $18 and mediums sold for $10 to $12, Lower Keys commercial fisherman George Niles said.
Crabs were hard to find this year, fishermen said. The catch for stone crab, spiny lobster and kingfish was dreadful, Niles agreed.
"This was the worst season I have ever seen," he said. "I have never seen it this bad."
It is not uncommon to have a bad stone crab season after two good seasons, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) fishery biologist Tom Matthews. Also, Gulf of Mexico waters off the Keys were plagued by red tides.
Usually red tides last two to three months, Matthews said, but this year, they lingered for eight months. The stone crab fishery was also plagued by a fatal parasite, hematodinium.
FWC is still putting together stone crab totals for the year, but Matthews estimated the harvest this season will be about 2 million pounds. A banner year would be about 3 million pounds, he said.
"It was a disastrous season for the entire state," Upper Keys crab fisherman Gary Nichols said. "Hopefully next year will be better."