Feminine horseshoe crabs shielded from bait harvest in Delaware Bay

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Fee voted final week to quickly halt the harvest of feminine horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay, a vital nesting space and stopover habitat for endangered Crimson Knots and different migratory shorebirds that feed on the crabs’ eggs.

However the fee additionally accepted a deeply flawed mannequin that may permit elevated horseshoe crab harvests — together with feminine horseshoe crabs — in future years.

The Heart for Organic Range helped manage efforts to cease the feminine horseshoe crab harvest. The fee was flooded by greater than 34,000 public feedback opposing any enlargement of harvests, particularly of feminine horseshoe crabs.

“Permitting feminine horseshoe crabs to be harvested would have been a disaster,” stated Will Harlan, a scientist on the Heart. “I’m grateful that the fee responded to public and scientific enter and pumped the brakes on feminine horseshoe crab harvests. Sadly, the struggle is much from over as a result of the fee left the door open to feminine horseshoe crab harvests after subsequent yr.”

Horseshoe crabs — brown, body-armored beasts with lengthy, spiked tails — reside fossils which have survived for a half-billion years. Every spring, horseshoe crabs crawl ashore and lay hundreds of thousands of eggs alongside Atlantic Coast seashores.

A Crimson Knot stands on the seaside behind a flipped-over horseshoe crab within the early morning daylight. Photograph by Ray Hennessy/Shutterstock

Crimson Knots, whose 19,000-mile annual migration is likely one of the longest on the planet, journey from the southern tip of South America to the Canadian Arctic every year to breed. Crimson Knots time their journey north to coincide with horseshoe crab nesting alongside the Atlantic Coast. The knots gorge on protein-rich horseshoe crab eggs, offering a necessary refueling for the beleaguered birds. Birds that miss this egg feast normally die or fail to breed.

Crimson Knot populations plummeted following the overharvest of horseshoe crabs within the Nineties. The Heart for Organic Range helped safe Endangered Species Act protections for the shorebird in 2014.

Horseshoe crab populations additionally stay traditionally low. Neither horseshoe crabs nor Crimson Knots are near restoration targets. However the mannequin accepted by the fee has not been launched publicly or acquired impartial scientific evaluate.

“The fee should convey this flawed mannequin out of the shadows earlier than any future harvest will increase are thought of,” stated Harlan. “Crimson Knots proceed to say no, and horseshoe crab populations haven’t recovered from overharvesting. Growing horseshoe crab harvests threatens their survival and pushes Crimson Knots even nearer to extinction.”

Due to the Heart for Organic Range for offering this information.

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