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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 6, 2008

Contact: Darlene Yuhas (609) 984-1795
Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994

PBS DOCUMENTARY OFFERS PUBLIC OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN MORE
ABOUT PROTECTION OF HORSESHOE CRABS & SURVIVAL OF RED KNOTS

(08/10) TRENTON - Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today urged all New Jerseyans to view the upcoming nationally televised premiere of a PBS documentary that illuminates one of the state’s critical conservation challenges: averting further decline of the threatened red knots and the horseshoe crabs they count on for survival.

The documentary, titled “Crash: A Tale of Two Species,” airs Sunday, Feb. 10, from 8-9 p.m., on PBS. It offers an in-depth look at the fragile interconnection between the dove-sized red knots and the horseshoe crabs.

“This film is a must-see for every New Jerseyan,” Commissioner Jackson said. “Biologists in New Jersey and throughout the world acknowledge that the red knot and the horseshoe crab are in the midst of a crisis. Rather than simply saying something must be done, New Jersey is taking substantive action. Key among our strategies is a moratorium on the harvest of horseshoe crabs to help the red knots rebound. These two species are inextricably linked, and only by aggressively conserving one can we have any hope of saving the other.”

The DEP has proposed continuing a moratorium on the harvest of horseshoe crabs until both the crab and the shorebird populations show signs of recovery.

On Feb. 11, the proposed moratorium will be considered during a special meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council.

Commissioner Jackson urged the Marine Fisheries Council to allow the DEP’s proposal to move toward adoption. “We have a responsibility to do all we can to protect these two species, and I ask the Council to support our efforts,” she said.

The world’s largest concentration of horseshoe crabs use Delaware Bay’s beaches as principal egg-laying grounds, and those beaches are a globally significant migratory stopover for the red knots and other shorebirds which feed on the horseshoe crabs’ fat-rich eggs.

The critical feeding stopover is part of the red knots’ annual 20,000-mile journey from Chile’s Tierra del Fuego to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

During the past decade, a sharp increase in the harvest of horseshoe crabs for use as bait has adversely impacted the availability of crab eggs - leaving the red knots unable to gain the weight necessary to complete their nonstop flight to the Arctic and successfully breed.

The red knot population is now so critically low that scientists fear the species could become extinct within five years.

The PBS NATURE documentary was produced, written, directed and narrated by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Allison Argo. Spotlighted in the film are Amanda Dey, a biologist with the DEP’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, and Larry Niles, retired chief of the ENSP, who annually leads an international team of biologists to the red knots’ wintering grounds at South America’s southern tip to assess the birds.

The special meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council will be held at 3:30 p.m. at the Batsto Village Office Visitor Center in Wharton State Forest. For a map and directions, visit www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/parks/wharton.html.

For more information on the red knot and the horseshoe crab, visit www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/ensp/redknot.htm.

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Last Updated: February 6, 2008