A season for the Florida Stone Crab has been introduced for the first time in Belize. As per the Fisheries Department and Ministry of the Blue Economy, the stone crab season will be from October 1st each year, expanding to June 30th of the following year. This achievement was more than welcome among those lobbying for sustainable stone crab fishing. In San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye’s well-known Chef Jennie Staines is more than satisfied as she had advocated for seasonal stone crab harvesting.
In an exclusive interview, the popular chef, who specializes in stone crab claws at the iconic Elvi’s Kitchen restaurant on Pescador Drive in downtown San Pedro, told My Beautiful Belize that it is a dream come true to have a stone crab season. Chef Staines shared that she had spoken to Minister of the Blue Economy Honourable Andre Perez about the matter. According to her, Perez listened to her suggestion and committed to looking into it.
On Tuesday, August 16th, the stone crab season and a set of rules to protect this marine species were made official by the Belize Fisheries Department. The new regulation is part of Statutory Instrument No. 108 of 2022. The details of the SI can be found here, and speaks about stone crab fishing and export licensing, the season, restriction on stone crab fishing and general penalty among other rules.
Chef Staines stated that having regularized stone crab fishing is essential. “In spawning time, sometimes, they get killed, affecting the industry,” she said. According to her, spawning starts in July; thus, the closing season time (July to the ending of September) is perfect timing. “In the future, maybe the opening time of the season can be extended an additional month if it is necessary,” Staines said.
Chef Staines is grateful for the season; however, there is another issue to take care of. She said that there are some fishers, who may not be well acquainted with sustainably stone crab fishing practices. A responsible way to fish stone crab is to remove the claw without killing it. Once the claw is removed, the crab should be returned to the water; its claw will grow back in months. But to promote good fishing practices, Staines believes the respective authorities at the fisheries department, in partnership with local fishermen and other interested organizations, should now start planning a seminar.
Staines suggests a seminar to teach new fisher-folks about the sustainable practices of stone crab fishing and the new regulation. The number of stone crab fishers is small now, but it may grow as crab claws are a delicacy loved by many. At Elvi’s Kitchen, it is one of the most popular food items, and Chef Staines is happy to pamper your palate in the unique way she prepares this seafood delicacy.
The new regulation to conserve the population of the Florida Stone Crab is welcome by Staines and the fisher-folks in this industry. They advised others in the industry to abide by these regulations and to fish responsibly. It will be a win-win situation for conservation and the economic aspect of the tourism and fishing industry in Belize.