MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Stone crab harvesting season is about to wrap and when it does it will be one for the books – and not in a good way.

The season, which started October 15th, draws to a close on May 15th.

Commercial fishermen have complained that the current stone crab season has been largely a bust.

A poor stone crab harvest drives up the price of the seafood delicacy, so some restaurants that regularly feature stone crabs have been promoting other dishes instead.

Ryan Gandy, a research scientist who studies crustaceans at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, concedes this has been a bad season so far, but hardly the worst on record.

“I don’t have anything to suggest that this isn’t within the normal cycle that we see,” Gandy said. “It’s coming off some good years. It’s within what we’ve seen before in down years.”

FWRI figures show peak landings occurred in the 2000-01 season with 3.5 million pounds of claws reported statewide. In 2005-06, after Hurricane Wilma’s flooding and high winds disrupted fishing in the Keys and Southwest Florida, the haul was just over 2.2 million pounds. Last season, trappers around the state brought in 2.66 million pounds.

A 2011 stock assessment conducted by Gandy and colleagues suggested stone crab are being overfished — and those numbers don’t include catches by recreational divers and trappers, who aren’t required to report their landings.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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