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Stone crabbers ask FWC to hold off on new rules, say it could destroy their business

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission may enforce tougher rules on fishing to help increase the stone crab population, but fishermen say that could destroy their business.

We talked to some of the members of the Florida Stone Crabbers Association who say a one-two punch of COVID-19 and these new rules will make a bad situation even worse.

Life on the water is all these women know.

Kelly Kirk, Holly Dudley and Carrie Doxsee with the Florida Stone Crabbers Association. (WINK News)

“I grew up on the back docks. I spent my whole life here,” said Kelly Kirk.

Trapping stone crabs is how their families have earned a living for decades.

“We roll the dice every day we push away from the docks,” said Holly Dudley.

That’s why the new proposed regulations by FWC have them worried.

“I’m afraid that’s it’s going to cripple the livelihood of so many people out there,” said Carrie Doxsee.

FWC says the state’s stone crab population is declining due to overfishing. The agency’s conservation commission wants to shorten the season, increase the claw size minimum and require escape holes in traps for smaller crabs.

The shortening of the season is definitely the biggest hit. I mean, you’re really looking at five weeks of a paycheck you’re taking away from us,” Doxsee said.

“We don’t want to have to find another source of income or, you know, another job when we’ve invested everything we have in this,” Dudley said.

With less time and fewer crabs they’re able to catch, they say these changes could impact you as well.

“If they put us out of business, you won’t get fresh stone crabs,” Dudley said. “[The] price could go up, availability could go down.”

It’s an unknown future for a Florida delicacy.

“Let’s make sure we’re protecting the stone crabber and protecting the stone crab,” said Kirk.

These three women have started a petition asking FWC to holdoff on passing these regulations for now.

FWC is holding a final public hearing on the proposed regulations next week.

Reporter:Taylor Petras
Writer:Briana Harvath
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