LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Last years red tide bloom was one of the longest lasting 18 months and resulting in masses of fish kills. Hurting many industries, including the stone crab season because there were no crabs to catch.
“No one made any money, so this year is very critical we have a good year,” said Jeff Haugland, owner of Island Crab Company.
He has been in the business for 30 years and says last stone crab season was the worst he’s seen. “A lot of the fisherman got out of it they could afford to stay in it,” said Haugland.
It's a fresh start to the stone crab season and from catches brought in the season is looking up.
So stone crabs might be popping up on menus at some restaurants, but with red tide blooms recently reported is it safe to eat?
“They would process and remove all those toxins, so if you are just eating a stone crab claw, no problem,” said Mike Parsons, Professor, Florida Gulf Coast University Water School.
Parsons says this time last year there was about a thousand square miles of dead zone out in the water, that’s bigger than Lee County.
“There wasn’t enough oxygen in the water for fish or crabs to survive, blue crabs came up to the surface and same away, the stone crabs same away, they can’t swim, they basically tried to walk their way out and they would die,”said Parsons.
Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Marine Lab is reporting red tide blooms from samples taken on Tuesday.
The highest concentrations found were 880,000 cells per liter off the coast of Sanibel. Fish kills and respiratory problems in people occur at levels higher than 100,000 per liter.
As fisherman remain optimistic for a good crabbing season — experts say the red tide we are seeing is normal for this time of year, “there’s nothing that’s out of the ordinary, that would suggest it would flare up again, but we will be keeping our eye on it, along with other groups," said Parsons.
There are daily updates on where red tide is present on Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s website.