Written by 1:08 pm Food

New claw removal technique could help sustain stone crab population

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Recent research on the stone crab fishery in The Bahamas has identified another method for claw removal that increases the probabilities of stone crab survival by nearly 30% once their claw is harvested and the crab is released.

This work was done in collaboration with local fishers by the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) at The Island School, and the findings were reported in a press statement from the Institute.

The new method takes advantage of a self-defense strategy that crabs and another animals use to avoid predators. Similarily to lizards, who’ve been observed to drop their tails when threatened, crabs can actively drop a claw off to extend their probabilities of survival in the event that they are under attack.

By simply sticking a pointy object into the soft joint mid-way down the claw, a fisher could make the crab drop its claw which avoids damage to the joint that may occur when cracking or clipping the claw off.

The institute says that when a crab drops its claw, survival increases by 29% on average, meaning more crabs survive to regrow their claws and reproduce, thus supporting the population and the fishery into the longer term.

“Stone crab claws in The Bahamas are larger on average than those in Florida, and this has resulted in a successful export market development,” the discharge indicated.

“Unlike most seafood that’s priced the identical per pound, stone crab claws are more precious the larger they’re, so it will be significant to take care of a healthy population of huge crabs in The Bahamas for the export market to thrive.

Despite the promising findings, the discharge noted “the Cape Eleuthera Institute doesn’t recommend this method be regulated or mandated within the business fishery at the moment.”

This was said to be because several feasibility flags were identified during a testing period for different harvest method. Still, the CEI hopes that further testing will result in fishers sharing their recommendations and identifying best practices. 

The group says the beginning of the annual stone crab season, which spans October 16 – May 31, presents “an exiting opportunity” to proceed this work.

“As with anything, it could take some practice to seek out a quick, protected, and reliable approach to stick a claw and drop it off. Moreover, food safety administrators and business buyers within the US are being consulted to make sure all concerns are being addressed.

“Stakeholder direction and support is important to fisheries research and management, so we’re excited to proceed this project using feedback from fishers to make sure this resource is obtainable for future generations,” the discharge continued.

The CEI suggests that fishers try the removal method for themselves after which report back to the organization with their assesments.

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