JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – On Thursday, nothing was written in chalk inside the stone crab bubble at Beachside Seafood Restaurant & Market. They were all out.
"We've been getting a sketchy supply,” said Tim Baker, manager of the seafood market.
Baker says this stone crab harvest is one of the worst he’s ever seen.
To make sure he stays in stock, Baker often has to drive more than an hour to get them from the crabbers who say they don’t have enough supply to make their drive to him worthwhile.
But even then, there’s still a catch.
"I’m limited in what size I can buy and I’m limited in pricing,” Baker said.
The price hike is now trickling down to the consumer.
Baker says his prices are about $4 to $6 a pound higher than just last year.
"You've got to pay to play. Bottom line, you're got to pay to play,” said Baker.
Turns out, he’s not alone.
Reports from across the state show crab catches are down 40 percent. The reason why remains unclear. Some are blaming the unstable temperature while others blame a booming octopus population that has been eating up the crabs caught in the traps.
But whatever the reason for the poor season, Baker is hoping it changes next year. Until then, just be ready to shell out.
"The prices are up. If you want them, you pay for them,” said Baker.
Stone crab season runs from October 15 to May 15.