Annual stone crab claw harvest begins in Florida

MARATHON, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s annual stone crab claw harvest has started amid new rules aimed at protecting future stocks and concerns about demand for claws due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New regulations, enforced by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, include increasing the minimum size of a harvested claw, reducing the harvest season by two weeks and modifying traps.

Trap modifications must be completed by the 2023-2024 season, but Keys Fisheries vice president Gary Graves says many commercial fishermen’s traps in the Florida Keys are already compliant.

Below are the new regulations in effect this season:

The minimum stone crab claw size limit will be 2 7/8 inches (a 1/8 inch increase) Possession of whole stone crabs on the water will be limited to two checker boxes, each up to 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet OR a total volume of 24 cubic feet. Checker boxes are used to hold crabs on board a vessel before they are measured and legal-sized claws are removed. The season will now end on May 2. All plastic and wood stone crab traps will need to be outfitted with a 2 3/16-inch escape ring before the 2023/2024 season.

Recreational harvesters who are 16 or older and fish with traps are required to

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