Every year brings fluctuations in the number of blue crabs and stone crabs — two commercially important fisheries. Is overfishing the culprit? Or do natural factors, such as wind and ocean currents, affect whether seafood aficionados will have all the crabs they want in each coming year?
On Tuesday, January 24, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Charles Epifanio, professor of marine biology–biochemistry and associate director of the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, will answer these questions when he discusses the status of the Atlantic blue crab and the Florida stone crab in “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean: A Reprise.” The lecture, which includes lunch, is part of the Wilmington Lunch and Lecture Series sponsored by the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies and the Delaware Sea Grant College Program.
Epifanio will begin his talk by relating his “top-ten” list of facts for the Atlantic blue crab and the Florida stone crab. For example, blue crabs are found in waters ranging from Long Island to Argentina, whereas stone crabs are only found from North Carolina to the Caribbean. Both species are major predators of oysters, mussels, and clams.
These facts also illustrate the meanings behind the crabs’ scientific names. Taking note of its unique swimming ability and its distinctive flavor, the blue crab is aptly named Callinectes sapidus — the Latin word Callinectes means “beautiful swimmer” and sapidus means “savory.” The scientific name for the stone crab, Menippe mercenaria, also is appropriately named. The Greek word Menippe, meaning “force or courage,” reflects the strength of the crab’s claws, and the Latin word mercenaria, which means “something of value,” reflects the importance of the stone crab fishery to Florida.
Following these lists, Epifanio will discuss the status of the fisheries and show how the population varies from year to year. According to Epifanio, the variation is due not only to human factors such as overfishing, but also to forces of “Mother Nature.”
“From an economic standpoint, the blue crab is the most valuable shellfish in the Mid-Atlantic region, so it’s critical that we understand the factors that control its population,” says Epifanio. “While fishing pressure is one concern, natural factors such as winds and currents can have serious impacts on the blue crab during its early life stages.”
Epifanio will conclude his talk by discussing how he is using mathematical models to predict the effects of natural factors on the blue crab population. These models can then be used to develop a management plan that will sustain the fishery despite the year-to-year fluctuations. This research is supported by the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, the State of Delaware, and the University.
A member of the college’s faculty since 1971, Epifanio has a record of excellence in research, teaching, and service. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, has served as both associate dean of the college and as director of the marine biology–biochemistry program, and was recently appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Delaware Museum of Natural History in Wilmington. In addition, Epifanio has advised more than 50 graduate students. In 2002, he was honored as the first recipient of the University of Delaware’s Outstanding Graduate Student Mentoring and Advising Award.
The lecture includes lunch at the award-winning Hotel du Pont. To reserve your seat, at $15 per person, call (302) 831-8062. Or e-mail your reservations to MarineCom@udel.edu.