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Oct 15, 3:02 AM EDT

Fishermen anticipate good stone crab claw season


MARATHON, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's stone crab claw harvesting season has opened, and commercial fishermen in the Keys anticipate high demand and likely higher prices than the beginning of last season.

Gary Graves is vice president of Keys Fisheries, one of the state's largest processors of the tasty claws. He projected season-opening, per-pound state retail prices should exceed $13 for medium, $20 for large and $25 for jumbo.

Graves hopes this season's statewide harvest, which began Wednesday and continues through May 15, will yield more than the 2.6 million pounds per season averaged during the past 10 years.

Stone crabs are a renewable resource. Legal-size claws are taken, and the crab's body is returned to the water to grow new extremities.

About 40 percent of Florida's stone crab harvest comes from waters off the Keys.

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Online: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Research Institute, http://myfwc.com/research/

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