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Do Stone Crab Claws Grow Back?

If you enjoy cracking stone crab and the Earth, chances are that you’ve wondered how sustainable the stone crab fishing process is. Technically, every stone crab enthusiast should care if they want to continue enjoying stone crab.

Stone crab is a delicious, buttery-sweet delicacy that comes in season just a few months every year. Stone crabs can primarily be found in the waters of Florida and are known for their impressive, oversized claws. These claws are harvested through an expert process that involves removing the claw and releasing the crab back into the water. But what happens to the crab after its claw is harvested?

The crab goes right back into the water and starts to grow a new claw!

Yes, really! 

Florida stone crab sustainability laws such as stone crab season combined with this unique stone crab trait ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy stone crab.

Stone Crab Sustainability Information

Regeneration is the stone crab’s superpower. When these crabs are harvested responsibly by experts who know how to remove the claw in just a few seconds, stone crabs can go back to live out the rest of their lives in the water and regrow their pincers. This process makes the stone crab one of the most sustainable and ethical forms of seafood harvested in the world

Justin Bruland, a third-generation stone crab fisherman, told Bon Appétit Magazinethat “the part you eat is the claw, and it regenerates, whereas with a lot of other crabs, you harvest the body whole.”

That’s great news for the stone crabs! It’s also great news for the sustainability of the system we use to derive food from the sea. By focusing on renewable food sources such as stone crab, the ecological impact of fishing and harvesting is greatly reduced and there can be many seasons of good eating ahead of us. 

“I want to see this industry stay around, and I want to be able to pass this down to my nephews,” Bruland says. “Consumers are going to be able to get crabs in the same respect, and stone crabs are going to be around for a long time.”

How Are Stone Crab Claws Harvested?

According to FWRI, stone crabs are legal to harvest from October 15 through May 1 every year. During the harvesting period, crabs are either trapped or collected by hand. Fishermen then typically remove one claw of legal size from each crab that meets the appropriate guidelines. 

The Crustacean Fisheries group at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) is responsible for managing the fishing and harvesting of stone crab in Florida, as well as tracking and researching the population of stone crabs. They are the ones who make sure stone crabs are harvested properly so they can remain a renewable resource. 

Expert fishermen who harvest stone crabs use a particular method to remove the crab’s claw in as little as a few seconds. This technique is quick and precise, and it allows them to leave the rest of the stone crab intact so that the removed claw can later grow back without an issue.

How Long Does It Take a Stone Crab to Regrow Its Claw?

After a stone crab’s claw is removed and it is returned to the water, it takes several molts for the crab’s claw to regenerate and grow back. This process of molting typically takes an adult stone crab about a year. For younger stone crabs, this molting process can be more frequent, meaning that their claws can grow back in as little as a few months. 

The regrown claw will typically come back smaller than the original appendage, but it can grow more and more over time and eventually reach the impressive claw size the stone crab is known for. Stone crabs have a lifespan in the wild of up to eight or nine years, giving them plenty of time to grow into their new pincer. 

Marwan Ghayad

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