The Reason Stone Crabs Are So Expensive

Thomas Hawk, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Thomas Hawk, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0 / Thomas Hawk, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Many people associate lobster with fine dining, but the stone crab may be the true king of fancy shellfish. Per pound, the crab is the most expensive seafood consumed in the United States. The crustacean is highly sought after for its delicate, succulent taste, but that's not the only reason for its high price tag. The cost of stone crabs comes from the way the creature is harvested.

To prevent their population from being wiped out, stone crab fishing is strictly regulated. In Florida, where 98 percent of all stone crabs sold in the country originate, the crabs can only be harvested from October 15 through May 1. That's why stone crab season lasts half the year at markets and restaurants.

Stone crab harvesting isn't as simple as hauling a box of live crabs to shore. Fishermen are only allowed to collect one claw from each crab they catch. The claw must be at least 2.75 inches long, and it can't belong to an egg-bearing female.

Once the claw is broken off, the live crab is thrown back into the ocean, where it will have a chance to continue mating and reproducing. Stone crabs can survive with one claw, and it takes them about a year to regrow the lost appendage. That means there's a good chance the owner of the stone crab claw you ordered is still crawling through the ocean when your dinner arrives.

Due to these sustainability practices, one pound of stone crab takes more time and effort to harvest than most other crustaceans. The crab can sell anywhere from $30 to $60 per pound depending on the claw size. And thanks to high demand from seafood lovers, that price likely won't go down anytime soon.