New Jersey and Delaware
Join Forces to Protect Delaware Bay Horseshoe Crab:
Joint Plea Made to Federal Commission to Establish Coast-Wide
(03/21) Trenton In response
to an increasing decline in the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab
population, the states of New Jersey and Delaware today
announced a joint Horseshoe Crab Management Plan that will
reduce by half each state's annual harvest quota and prohibit
all harvesting activities during the horseshoe crabs' prime
spawning season from May 1 through June 7.
"The Delaware Bay is a shared resource
and drastic measures are called for on both sides of the
waterway to address the alarming decline of the horseshoe
crab population and wildlife that depends on horseshoe crab
eggs as a primary food source," said New Jersey Department
of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell.
"Aggressive actions like the harvest moratorium will
help ensure maximum protection for these declining and threatened
In the past three years, the concentration
of horseshoe crab eggs on important shorebird feeding beaches
in New Jersey has declined in some places by almost 50 percent.
In 2002, on 4 of 5 beaches in Delaware, the egg availability
has declined between 35 percent to over 93 percent. Consequently,
the seasonal weight gains for Red Knots, a state endangered
shorebird species most dependent on eggs available on the
beach surface, have declined dramatically from 1997 to 2002
impacting their ability to fuel for their trek to the Arctic
nesting grounds. The number of Red Knots reaching weights
sufficient to make the trek to the Arctic has declined from
33,741 in 1998 to 5,376 in 2002.
As part of the joint Horseshoe Crab Management
Plan, New Jersey and Delaware are initiating:
A moratorium on all (including bycatch, personal use,
hand-harvest from beaches/back-bays and dredging) horseshoe
crab harvests from May 1 to June 7 to maximize egg resources
available to migrating shorebirds;
A cap on total horseshoe crab harvests for both Delaware
and New Jersey at 150,000 crabs per state (a 50 percent
reduction) to increase the likelihood of long-term sustainability;
Mandatory use of bait-saving devices in whelk pots
using horseshoe crabs for bait to limit the demand for
Limited access on specific areas of important bird-feeding
beaches during specific times between May 1 to June
7 to allow the shorebirds to feed without disruption;
Reduced research coordinated by the states to limit
disturbance of feeding shorebirds.
"Delaware and New Jersey are cooperatively
proposing a coherent conservation program to protect both
horseshoe crabs and shorebirds," said John A. Hughes,
Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources
and Environmental Control. "I hope that all of the
other Atlantic States will take their own measures to support
In addition to the New Jersey and Delaware
agreement, both states are requesting that the Atlantic
States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) Horseshoe Crab
Management Board consider capping other Atlantic coast states'
2003 horseshoe crab bait harvest quotas at the 2001 levels,
as well as investigate coast-wide measures to reduce crab
mortality caused by the biomedical use of horseshoe crabs.
The blood of Horseshoe crabs is used to
produce lysate, which is a substance used in biomedical
testing. Current reports indicate that in addition to the
estimated 5 to 15 percent mortality caused by the biomedical
industry during the crab bleeding process, another 10 to
15 percent of bled crabs are destroyed in the process of
collecting, handling and shipping. The amount of crabs taken
for the bleeding process on a coast-wide basis has increased
from approximately 130,000 in 1989 to 300,000 today.
New Jersey and Delaware will be working
with the biomedical industry to further protect horseshoe
crab and shorebird populations.