Ex-vessel stone crab prices are down an average of more than USD 2.50 a pound this season, the result of weakened demand due to the economic downturn. Fishing effort in the Florida Keys is also down.
Reduced demand and damage from the 2008 hurricanes is resulting in lower Florida stone crab landings for the ongoing 2008-09 season. At the same time, the industry is battling lower prices for stone crab.
"Ex-vessel prices have been down, and the supply has varied throughout the Gulf Coast fishery," said Scott Zimmerman, executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fisheries Association in Marathon, Fla.
The state's stone crab season runs from 15 October through 15 May.
In the Florida Keys, the fishing effort has been suppressed by low demand for the product, added Zimmerman.
"I would guess that the 2008 storms - Faye and Ike - played a role in the decreased landings," he said.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates preliminary stone crab landings in Florida at 2.2 million pounds (997,900 kilograms) at the end of last year. The 2007 harvest yielded almost 3 million pounds (1.4 million kilograms) statewide.
As a result of a weakened demand due largely to the economic downturn, stone crab ex-vessel prices have also dropped. During the 2007 season, stone crab claws were worth an average of USD 8.96 (EUR 6.66) a pound, according to the FFWCC. However, the agency's preliminary data for the 2008 season shows a steep price decline, to an average of USD 6.41 (EUR 4.77) a pound.
"I don't think [stone crab] prices would have held [stayed low] if the economy was doing well," said Stephen Sawitz, co-owner of Joe's Stone Crab restaurant in Miami.
At the same time, Joe's Stone Crab aims to pay fishing boats a fair price to keep them in business.
"We are in the position of having to make sure our fishermen, our wholesaling division, and our restaurant, can operate at a decent, profitable level," said Sawitz.