The law of supply and demand is tweaking pocketbooks in Florida as the stone crab industry continues its downturn.
Since 2000, the harvestable claws — only claws 2 3/4 inches long or longer — from the wildly popular crustacean, Menippe mercanaria, have declined from a market high in Manatee County, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission data.
FWC data from Manatee shows a high of nearly 87,000 pounds of claws in 2000, a low of 9,197 pounds in 2014, as well as 15,154 pounds of claws this year. The county data shows high points in 2004 and 2010.
Sarasota County, however, shows its top number in 18 years of landings in 2010, when nearly 58,000 pounds of claws were recorded. Sarasota’s landings dropped to 11,065 pounds in 2018.
In Cortez, the claws cost $23-$45 per pound — with 2017’s best-selling five- to 7-ounce claws at $32 per pound.
Stone crab season began Oct. 15 and runs until May 15.