The stone crab, Menippe spp. (Say, 1918), fishery is a large fishery in the southeastern United States. One of the primary regulations for this fishery requires that fisherman only harvest crab claws and return the living crab to the ocean. This regulation was put in place in an effort to reduce the overall mortality of harvested organisms and to promote fishery sustainability; however, fishery-related claw loss is likely to influence the population through multiple pathways. How fishery-related claw loss influenced stone crab diet choice, prey size selection, and consumption over time was examined, in addition to how these factors may influence the reproduction of harvested individuals. The consumption of soft-bodied prey, such as polychaete worms, was not influenced by claw loss. In contrast, claw loss has strong negative impacts on the consumption of more common hard-bodied prey, such as bivalves. Specifically, 1-clawed stone crabs consumed bivalves that were approximately 15% smaller after claw removal and consumed, on average, approximately 50% fewer bivalve prey than 2-clawed stone crabs. These decreases in consumption persisted over time. As a result of these dietary changes, stone crabs are likely to experience energetic constraints after claw removal that may limit the growth, reproduction, and survival of harvested stone crabs.
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Vol. 33 • No. 3