Stone Crabs in Short Supply in Tampa Bay Area

HERNANDO BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ It’s stone crab season and while demand is high, the supply is down in some areas around Tampa Bay. And prices are soaring.

The cause? Crabbers say it could be the balmy weather. Or the octopuses that are feasting on stone crabs.

The Tampa Bay Times ( ) reports some area crabbers say up to half of their traps are coming up empty.

Fish and wildlife officials say the Sarasota area _ where water temperatures haven’t cooled much and where the Gulf has remained calm _ seems to have suffered most from the octopus explosion.

Biologist Ryan Gandy says there also are normal fluctuations in the numbers of octopuses and stone crabs.

He says predators go to where the food is easiest to find and, for now, octopuses are winning.