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ASMFC Horseshoe Crab Board Approves Reduction
Of Harvests in NJ, Delaware, and MD

MARCH 10, 2004 — The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Horseshoe Crab Management Board agreed to adopt new conservation measures for the horseshoe crab – an ancient "living fossil" whose population has been declining due to over-fishing. On a vote of 12-3, the Board passed the Audubon-supported measure that restricts the harvest of horseshoe crabs, prohibits harvest and landings during May 1 to June 7, and encourages bait saving techniques.

Image:  Horseshoe crab on beachThe ASMFC Board approved Addendum III to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Horseshoe Crabs. The Addendum seeks to further the conservation of horseshoe crab and migratory shorebird populations in and around the Delaware Bay. It reduces harvest, implements seasonal closures and revises the Planís monitoring requirements.

"Through its actions today, the Board continues to recognize the unique relationship between horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebird populations," stated Board Chair Bruce Freeman of New Jersey. "I want to especially acknowledge the efforts of the states of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland in taking steps to ensure the integrity of the Delaware Bay ecosystem."

The Addendum responds to recommendations of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serviceís Shorebird Technical Committee to reduce the horseshoe crab harvest in New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. The intent is to increase the abundance of horseshoe crabs eggs to meet the energy requirements of migratory shorebirds that stopover in the Delaware Bay.

Specifically, the Addendum caps annual harvest in New Jersey and Delaware at 150,000 crabs per state and sets Marylandís annual quota at its 2001 landings level (170,653 crabs).

Additionally, New York is adopting similar measures, but not under the ASMFC umbrella.

Further, it requires the three states to prohibit the harvest and landings of horseshoe crab for bait from May 1 to June 7. Addendum III also encourages states with both bait and biomedical fisheries to allow biomedical companies to bleed harvested crabs prior to their use as bait. This would eliminate mortality associated with the process of bleeding and returning crabs to the waters from which they were harvested.

Copies of the Addendum will be available by mid-April and can be obtained from the Commissionís website, or by contacting the Commission office at 202-289-6400. For more information, please contact Braddock Spear, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at (202) 289-6400.

These actions will go a very long way toward protecting the horseshoe crab and the migratory shorebirds that depend on them, particularly the Red Knot – an Audubon WatchList species that has seen a significant decline in recent years.

The Red Knot is an ornithological marvel that travels more than 18,000 miles each year, often as many as 2,500 miles non-stop from its wintering home in Brazil to its summer home in the Arctic. The Delaware Bay is their last stop en route to the Arctic. It's where they have to double their weigh in order to survive the migration; and for Red Knots, more than 95% of their food is Horseshoe Crab eggs.

This significant victory is the culmination of years of work to protect the horseshoe crab by the National Audubon Society, Audubon state offices in New York and Maryland, New Jersey Audubon, Delaware Audubon and the Virginia Audubon Council, and our partner organizations in bird conservation. Many thanks to all for making this victory possible!

– This article compiled from National Audubon Society reports;
and an ASMFC press release

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This page was last updated on March 11, 2004.