Fewer crabs caught in Indian River Lagoon, fishermen say

Author: Justin Warmoth, Reporter, jwarmoth@wkmg.com
Published On: Sep 10 2013 06:23:58 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 10 2013 06:48:08 PM EDT
Crabs dying in Indian River
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. -

Crab catchers usually bring in triple the catch they brought in on Tuesday, a concern local business owners have been facing for the past year.

"This has been the worst year we have seen since we've been in business and we've been in business for 46 years," said Jan Walker with Clayton's Crab Company in Rockledge.

On a normal September day, Brevard County seafood businesses would be getting a fresh catch of blue crabs from local, independent crabbers, but this year, it's not the same.

"Normally they would be coming in every day with their catch. Currently, they are only coming in about every other day," said Walker.

Walker says her crab profits have been cut in half this year and Jim Ritter with Ozzie's Crab House in Palm Bay says he's also facing the same spiraling decline in their best-selling local blue crab.

Ritter said, "I've been around here for 50 years and there has never been a crab shortage like there was this year."

Both seafood companies buy their blue crabs from crabbers who harvest in the same waters that have been blamed for the deaths of 60 bottlenose dolphins, 280 manatees, and 250 brown pelicans -- the Indian River Lagoon.

Last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared the deaths in the lagoon as "unusual." That word will open up federal funding to further study the die-off.

"Something is happening out there. It is either too many toxins in the water, too much fertilizer possibly," said Ritter.

Local 6 reached out to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission about the shortage of blue crabs and they aren't sure there's been a decline, but plan on looking into the problem.