Stewardship of our natural resources is a responsibility those in the seafood business take seriously.

In order to enjoy the local delicacies we love year after year, it is essential to ensure the fish population remains healthy and their natural habitats are protected. It’s the right thing to do for our customers, restaurants and our planet.

A further commitment to sustainability is to eat what is local when it is in season.

As spring arrives and the temperature gets warmer, the perfect combination of sustainability and deliciousness is upon us: soft-shell crab season, the only time of year when you can enjoy eating a crab in its entirety.

The season can be as short as three weeks – as it was last year – or as long as eight weeks. Ultimately, the length of the season is up to the crabs.

When the temperature stays between 70 and 72 degrees, the crabs will molt. During this sweet spot, when the conditions are just right, the crabs are harvested, warehoused at the proper temperature for molting, and then shipped fresh to retailers for sale.

In the fall, there is a shorter season for soft-shell crabs, but most aficionados will tell you they aren’t quite like the spring variety.

If the temperature fluctuates too much, they will stop molting altogether. Because of this unpredictability, fans are encouraged to get their hands on these wonderful crustaceans as soon as possible.

The message is clear. Get them while you can.

Crabbers understand the annual volatility, which is why they typically work around the clock in season, seven days a week, when the temperature is just right.

Companies like the Vernon River Crab Co. in Savannah, which supplies many fish markets, prepare for soft-shell crab season so they can catch and deliver all the local, sustainable seafood the region demands.

Preparing soft-shell crabs at home is easy, and they make quite a visual presentation, not to mention a refreshing change of pace when serving seafood.

Most people sauté, fry or grill these crabs, which are left completely whole. If you’ve never eaten soft-shell crabs before, it’s hard to imagine enjoying the legs, insides, and shell of a blue crab, but the flavor profile is phenomenal.

From fancy entrees with delicate side dishes that create art on a plate, to practically naked on a sandwich, soft-shell crabs are as versatile as they are delicious.

For inspiration, there are millions of recipes online to check out, and you can also ask for tips at your favorite local fish market. I hope you will enjoy soft-shell crabs while they are here. In-season, they are among the best ways to support seafood sustainability by shopping and eating locally.

Charles J. Russo III is the owner of Russo’s Fresh Seafood Bluffton.