Maryland Tagged Blue Claw Crab Found In The Gulf Side Of Florida


animal tracking program SERC, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s blue crab research program, assawoman bay, maryland blue crabs, chesapeake bay, core sound
Tagged blue claw crabs, 13 caught .. photo by Lori Wyatt

Two years ago people were catching tagged blue claw crabs near us in the Chesapeake and its tributaries. We got in touch with the people doing the tagging for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) Animal Tracking Studies. The interview was interesting and informative. We learned a great deal especially about migration and movement. Some tagged crabs were reported as far south as North Carolina in the Core Sound. Today though, Kim Leoffler of Bay News 9 in St. Petersburg, FL, reported that one crab was found on the gulf side of Florida near the Crystal River in King’s Bay. Yes, a Maryland blue crab made it all the way to Florida from the Chesapeake Bay. According to the tag info in the article below, the migration took several years, which is weird considering it was a male and they molt when they grow. Not to mention the fact that Florida is a long walk for any creature that spends most of its time walking sideways in the wrong direction. I can’t wait to call the scientists next year to hear this crab story.

Reported today by Kim Leoffler, Reporter.  for the  Bay News 9 in St. Petersburg, FL  

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A fisherman in Crystal River made quite the catch this week. Turns out one of his blue crabs had traveled to our area all the way from Maryland! Experts say that’s very unusual.  It’s certainly not something Thomas Cochran with TJE Seafood expected to find while taking in his normal harvest from King’s Bay.  “I was looking around like, is this a joke or is this something that’s all over or is this one of a kind?” he explained.  He noticed the pink tag on the crab and called the number listed. Turns out the crab had been tagged by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the Chesapeake Bay, and over the course of several years made his way into the gulf and then into King’s Bay.

A scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center told us this is the furthest a blue crab has traveled since they started tagging them.  “We’ve tagged a number of crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. Some of them get captured as far south as North Carolina,” Robert Aguilar, a biologist at the center, said.  Agular said it was also an unusual catch because it was a male crab.  “Unlike the females, they don’t have a directed migration, and also males in theory should continue to molt, to continue to grow, so when they molt they shed their exoskeleton and in theory they will then shed any tag that is attached to the carapace.”

Now the center is working with Cochran to get the crab sent back to them so they can do some tests to see why he traveled as far as his did.  It’s something Cochran said has been a once in a lifetime experience.  “I talked to some colleagues in Crystal River yesterday evening showed them the crab and they were just as speechless as I was. They’re long time crabbers too,” Cochran explained.  Aguilar said they’ve tagged about 50,000 crabs over the last 15 years.

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