April 18, 2019  

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Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Home to One of Only Two Blue Crab Hatcheries

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Scientists at the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Research Laboratory are conducting extensive research on the blue crab.

Researchers at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory have spent decades studying soft-shell blue crabs. The research has led to the development of one of just two blue crab hatcheries in the U.S.

Kirk Halstead, blue crab technician at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, said the crabs are produced at the hatchery. The crabs are then moved to large tanks for immediate grow-out. A few weeks later, when the crabs reach two inches in length, they are moved to nearby ponds.

“We feed them and then give them a larger space to grow,” Halstead said.

Professor Emeritus Dr. Harriet Perry has spent her career studying blue crabs and is excited about the hatchery’s possibilities.

“Now we can reliably produce these animals,” Perry said. “Over the course of the study, probably hundreds of thousands of blue crabs have come out of our hatchery.”

Perry said she hopes to move from the research phase to eventually equipping independent growers in Mississippi to produce soft-shell crab for the restaurant trade.

“Soft crabs are the money crab. They’re worth a lot of money,” Perry said. “Right now, we import most of the soft-shell crabs, and I think it is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs in Mississippi and for coastal fisherman.”

Perry said there is also a demand to supply recreational fishermen with crabs as live bait.

For more information about the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, call 228.872.4200 or visit: http://www.usm.edu/gcrl/