Blue crab tagged in Maryland turns up in Florida two years later

By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |  Jan. 2, 2018 at 1:08 PM
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Jan. 2 (UPI) -- A Florida fisherman's catch surprised scientists when the blue crab was found to be bearing a tag from researchers in Maryland.

Thomas Cochran of TJE Seafood said he was shocked when he was emptying a crab trap in the Crystal River and discovered it contained a blue crab bearing a tag from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the Chesapeake Bay.

Cochran used a number listed on the tag to contact researchers, and they determined the tag had been fitted on a crab they caught July 17, 2015.

"I didn't know what to expect. I ran up to a bunch of colleagues in Kings Bay. They hadn't seen anything like that either," Cochran told WFTS-TV.

Robert Aguilar, a biologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, said the blue crab is the furthest-traveled crustacean since the center started tagging them in 2006. He said the closest was a crab reported off Flagler Beach.

"We've tagged a number of crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. Some of them get captured as far south as North Carolina," Robert Aguilar told cable station Bay News 9.

He said researchers think it unlikely that anyone would have removed the tag from the original crab and replaced it on another, but scientists are curious as to why the male crab didn't lose the tag while molting.

"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," he said.

Cochran said biologists have asked him to keep the crab safe until they can collect it for study in early January.

"I got it secluded away in its own little trap with bait to keep him fed," Cochran said.

He said the mystery of the crab has him fascinated.

"That crab traveled over 2,000 miles," Cochran told the Citrus County Chronicle. "That's the mystery -- how the heck did this crab get down here?"

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