MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Have you had trouble finding stone crabs this season?
A good haul in a good year could yield as much as 400 pounds of stone crab for a captain in Southwest Florida. But Southwest Florida has been hit hard by red tide this year.
According to The Times, boats averaged a daily catch of 300 to 400 pounds last season but that is not the case this year.
When stone crab season kicked off in October, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said edible parts of stone crabs are not affected by red tide and are safe to eat. The FWC studied the effect of red tide on stone crabs in the 1970s.
Now, however, the FWC is saying it didn’t look into the effect of prolonged exposure to the toxic algae, which consumes oxygen at night.
That deprives the sea life below and experts are saying the lack of oxygen can weaken the slower moving stone crabs.
The Times report states Dr. Philip Gravinese, a crustacean researcher at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota did an experiment earlier this year. He exposed stone crabs to the toxic algae for an extended period and found that not only did their mortality increase, but also that high concentrations of the algae also killed off crab larvae.
The Florida red tide organism, known as K. brevis, produces brevetoxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates, causing these animals to die.
Red tide overran Florida’s southern Gulf Coast this summer, devastating sea life and driving people from the water. It was powered in part by a toxic freshwater blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee, which runs down the Caloosahatchee River into the Gulf of Mexico, where it mixes with red tide.