Fisherman: this is the worst stone crab season we've seen
Stone crab season worst in memory Video by fox4now.comvideo
MATLACHA, Fla. - The freezers and storage rooms are nearly empty at Barnhill Fisheries on Matlacha. A major supplier of stone crabs from the west to east coasts of Florida.
"At this point, there's no money being made," said Eddie Barnhill, the owner, as he showed Fox 4 the five baskets of stone crabs he had. During a strong season, he has about 60. "We're just doing what we can to survive."
The business supplies about 14 wholesalers and restaurants. But Barnhill says he can't keep up with the demand.
"This year's been extremely bad," added Barnhill.
He says the warmer-than-usual weather and effects of the BP oil spill may be to blame for a stone crab shortage. But no one is really sure.
"No where is there producing anything, so no one really has an answer right now because it's something never been seen," explained Barnhill.
The owner of Andy's Island Seafood, Brian Urso, agrees, "There just really isn't a lot right now."
This year, Urso is encouraging customers who want jumbo stone crabs to order them in advance. Like many other seafood stores, he's stocking mostly a different kind of crab instead.
"I've been carrying what's called a 'light,' which is a stone crab that's not fully grown in it's shell," explained Urso.
That's because he says "lights" are more profitable for him and a better value for his customers.
"For what you could pay for two pounds of jumbo stones, you can get four pounds of beautiful, fresh grouper," said Urso.
Barnhill says money made from stone crabs now are supposed to hold him over until October, when the season starts again. He says about 90 percent of his profits come from claws.
"It's going to a brutal summer," concluded Barnhill.
Fisherman also say they're seeing dead crabs in traps, which is unusual. They plan to send them for testing. Stone crab season runs from October 15 to May 15.