CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - As Frenchy's 34th Stone Crab Weekend festival gets ready to kick off this weekend, there's an undercurrent of unease with red tide plaguing the Gulf of Mexico for months.
Tommy Shook, general manager of Frenchy's Seafood Company, is confident red tide concerns will be at a minimum and this weekend's festival will be as big as ever.
"It's a city block. It's true, you almost have to see it to believe it," Shook said. "We'll generally go through anywhere between 8,000 and 10,000 pounds of crab this weekend."
Florida Fish and Wildlife has a section of its red tide website dedicated to the safety of shellfish during a red tide.
According to FWC, "edible parts of...animals commonly referred to as shellfish (crabs, shrimp and lobsters) are not affected by the red tide organism and can be eaten." The meat in those shellfish doesn't absorb the red tide toxin.
Shook, however, said Frenchy's still decided to be as cautious as possible.
"We've even taken extreme measures of moving some boats up to the north. But from about Pinellas County north, I think we dodged a bullet the whole year," he said, adding crabs will often escape red tide before it arrives. "Crabs are pretty resilient. When the red tide starts showing up, they get out of the way."
The potential festival-goers who spoke with FOX 13 had mixed feelings about eating crab harvested out of the Gulf of Mexico.
"I love stone crab. Can't wait to eat it. I like the soup, the crabs, everything," said Brian Hatton. "I'm going to eat them until they run out Sunday afternoon, probably."
"It's just been a little bit of a minute since the red tide was here and if you go just a couple miles down, it's still there," said Donna Miller. "I would err on the side of caution. I would not eat it."
The festival, which takes place on Baymont Street, starts Friday and runs through Sunday.