Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sea Level Rise Expert brings Science to Public Audience

chambersClimate Change and associated Sea Level Rise are complex topics. To interpret the science, the Salty Topics Marine Research Seminar Series is pleased to present Dr. Don Chambers, University of South Florida College of Marine Science, presenting “Sea Level Rise: What do We Know?”

The program will begin at 6:30pm, Thursday, November 7th with light refreshments & a viewing of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program King Tide Traveling Photo Exhibit. The series is hosted at Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. Register online at

Dr. Chambers will discuss the various tools that have been used to observe sea level rise since the early 1700s and present a summary of what we know about sea level rise, especially new insight gleaned from nearly global satellite and in situ measurements over the last two decades. We will discuss the relationship of sea level rise to climate change and the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets and discuss what we still need to understand in order to make more accurate predictions for future sea level rise.

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Join the Community Discussion about Climate Change

hands holding up globeSea level rise, shifting seasons and extreme weather are some of the climate change buzzwords that have become increasingly common. But do we really understand what they mean or how they will impact our lifestyles? Two forums are being held that will engage the public in a conversation about these important issues. You are invited to join the discussion.

“Climate: Change the Conversation” will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center in St. Petersburg.  A second forum will be offered from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26, at the St. Petersburg College, Fine Arts Auditorium in Tarpon Springs.

The program will include an introductory presentation and small group discussion about the potential effects of climate change in the Tampa Bay region. Each interactive station will highlight one local aspect of climate change and its associated impacts.

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Stone Crabs….Did You Know?

The 2013/2014 stone crab season is here, and in honor of this delectable crustacean,  I thought I’d share some interesting facts abouts stone crabs and DSCN1150the Florida stone crab fishery. Did you know?

  • Over 2.7 million stone crab claws were harvested in Florida during the 2012/2013 season worth an estimated dockside value of  $25.1 million.
  • Florida’s stone crab fishery provides approximately 98% of all stone crab landings in the United States. The top landings in the state come from Monroe and Collier Counties.
  • Because the majority of stone crab landings come from state waters of Florida, the fishery is managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
  • Two true species of stone crabs are harvested in Florida waters; The  Florida and Gulf stone crab.  Gulf stone crab are found from northwest Florida around the Gulf of Mexico through Mexico. Florida stone crab are found from west central Florida around the peninsula to east central Florida and North Carolina. The two species can interbreed and a hybrid of the two species can be found through the Big Bend region as well as from east central Florida through South Carolina. The majority of crabs harvested are Florida stone crabs.
  • Researchers estimate stone crabs can live up to seven to nine years with females typically living longer than males. It is unlikely crabs live to their maximum age in fished populations.
  • Florida stone crabs begin spawning when they are about 2 years of age.
  • Juvenile stone crabs inhabit  crevices in and beneath rock, shell, sponges, and tunicates. Adult Florida stone crabs live in burrows and can be found in seagrass beds or on rocky substrates near and offshore out to depths of 200 feet.
  • Stone crab may relocate in response to environmental factors or seasons. Large males often travel inshore in the fall to mate with molting females.
  • Stone crabs are generally opportunistic and will feed on snails, clams, urchins, and other invertebrates. They will also feed on fish  and ocassionally plant material.
  • Fishermen primarily uses baited traps to harvest stone crabs. Pigs feet and mullet are  commonly used as  bait.
  • A valid tag must be securely attached to each trap. Trap specifications and trap, buoy, and vessel marking requirements apply. Traps, buoys, and vessels must display the letter “X” and long with their permit number. Traps must be constructed of wood, plastic, or wire.
  • To reduce bycatch, each plastic trap must have a degradable panel and each wire trap must have at least three unobstructed escape rings (2-3/8 inches inside diameter) on a vertical side of the trap.
  • It is a third degree felony for tampering with someone else’s traps (or their content), lines, or buoys. In addition to criminal penalties. Violators can be fined $5,000 and lose their saltwater fishing privileges.
  • Florida’s stone crab season runs from October 15-May 15. Fishermen may put out their traps ten days bofore the season begins, and they have  five days after the season ends to bring in their traps. Spawning can occur year round, but stone crabs typically spawn from April through September. This is the primary reason Florida’s stone crab fishery is closed during the summer months; to protect spanwing females.
  • The stone crab fishery is unique in that only the claws are harvested, and the crab must be returned to the water alive.
  • Both claws of a stone crab can be legally harvested if they are at least 2 and 3/4 inches in length from the bottom tip of the claw to the  bend of the claw (propodus). Fishermen however, are encouraged to harvest only one claw  as taking both leaves the stone crab with few alternatives to defend itself from predators and may slow the regeneration process.
  • Surviving the declawing process depends on several factors such as the technique used to break off the claw (never twist off a claw as this can pull out muscle tissue and cause the crab to bleed out-it  should be a quick downward snap), whether one or two claws are removed, and size/sex of the crab (their is concern from manager about the survival rates of the large males)
  • It takes a stone crab approximately one year to regenerate a claw due to the seasonal molting of stone crabs. It may take up to three years for a claw reach legal size.
  •  It is illegal to harvest claws from egg-bearing females, easily identifiable by the orange or brown sponge the female carries under her. If a sponge is detected, the crab must be immediately placed back in the water unharmed no matter how big the claws are.
  • Research from FWC indicates approximately 13% of the stone crab claws harvested are regenerated, indicating that stone crabs survive the declawing process.
  • While Florida’s stone crab fishery is resilient and well managed, there is concern that there are too many traps in the fishery.  To address this issue without putting current fishermen out of business, managers and fishermen collaborated to create a trap limitation program. Approved in 2000, the program introduced new licensing and trap limits that will gradually decrease fishing effort over several decades.
  • Recreational fishermen are allowed five traps to harvest stone crabs.. Free stranding traps must have the owners name and address placed on them. Buoys should be marked with the letter “R” to denote it as a recreational trap. Size limits, seasons, and trap specifications are the same for recreational fishermen as the commercial fishermen.
  • Stone crab claws should never be put on ice before being cooked in order to prevent the meat from sticking to the inside of the shell. Once cooked, then they can be placed on ice.
  • Stone crab meat resembles lobster in appearance and tastes like a cross between crab and lobster—sweet, mild, and firm.
  • On average about two and half pounds of claws will yield about a pound of meat.
  • Stone crabs are a good, low-fat source of protein, vitamin 6, selenium, and magnesium.


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Seafood Safety in the Home Webinar Recording

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver the past three years Florida Sea Grant Agents in Collier and Miami-Dade Counties have been offering brown bag webinars to help educate consumers about various Florida seafood products and issues associated with these commodities. This past year’s series has focused on seafood health and safety. Recently, we presented the final webinar of the series, which provided tips for ensuring the seafood you bring home stays fresh while being safe and smart about it. The goals of the presentation are to

  • —Increase your knowledge on how to select seafood to purchase
  • —Increasing your knowledge of techniques for safely preparing seafood in a healthy way
  • —Increase your knowledge on how to safely handle your own catch

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