Stone crab season off to slow start
While it is less than a week into the Florida stone crab season, wholesalers and buyers are expecting slightly less supply than last season.
“I don’t think production is what they thought it was going to be. We need a really good cold front to come down, to stir up the bottom and get these crabs moving,” said Tim Lycke, president of seafood distributor Incredible Fish in Miami, Fla.
“The season is starting out slow. There are extremely warm water temperatures and no wind,” agreed Gary Graves, VP of Keys Fisheries in Marathon, Fla.
Florida’s stone crab season opened 15 October and runs through 15 May. Last year’s landings totaled 2.6 million pounds, the same as in 2010. So far this season, crabbers are getting a half-pound to one pound of crab per trap. In certain areas such as Everglades City and Crystal River, production is down compared to last year, Lycke said.
However, stone crab demand is high because many restaurants clamor to be the first to offer the delicacy. “Every restaurant and store wants to have stone crab in their showcase,” Graves said.
As a result, wholesale prices are strong this week. The average price for medium stone crab is USD 8 to USD 8.50 a pound, USD 11.50 to USD 12.00 a pound for large crabs, and USD 14.50 to USD 16.50 for jumbos.
After the start of the season, demand dies down until December, when more tourists and snow birds arrive in Florida, distributors say.
However, Lycke is cautiously pricing stone crab lower than the start of last season. “I do believe the economic situation we are in will hold the prices to a reasonable dollar amount. With the election, a lot of people are uncertain and are being very conservative. People are only going to pay so much for it, and then they will go somewhere else,” Lycke said.