Stone Crab season considered worst in decades, cripples South Florida fishermen, sends market prices

Few restaurants carrying Stone Crab, due to price

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - What is usually a highly sought after seafood menu item, turned into one of the most expensive dishes offered in restaurants throughout South Florida.

Stone Crab season ends on Wednesday and fishermen and market managers are already calling this one of the worst seasons in decades.

"It's the worst supply we've ever seen in 30 years," said Steve Gyland, owner of Cod & Capers Seafood Market.

Gyland said fishermen just are not finding the sought after claw. As a result, Gyland said prices are up and sales are down 25% at his market. He said it is worse for those spending the time and money to catch Stone Crab.

"Certainly it's going to affect jobs. If you have multiple seasons back to back like we had this year, you'll certainly see some attrition of fisherman not in the industry," said Gyland.

This season, Gyland said prices for Stone Crab have risen 30-40%.

The jump in costs trickle down to restaurants which hardly can afford to put Stone Crab on the menu.

"I just had a hard time at one point having to charge for a half-pound at a price of what we had to charge," said Ellen Daly of Spoto's Oyster House.

Spoto's is one of the few places that carried Stone Crab during the season.

With half-pound plates costing customers $20, Spoto's went from selling 15-pounds every day to hardly two-pounds.

The domino-effect to next year according to Gyland is that fishermen who need to make a living might give up on trying to find Stone Crab.

"We've seen off years before and hopefully this is just an exceptionally off year," said Gyland. 

Stone Crab season ends on May 15 and will not resume until October of 2013.

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