Large female horseshoe crab in the sandy intertidal zone near the shoreline | Shutterstock
Article by Perry Wheeler // Earthjustice
BEAUFORT, NC — Conservation groups commended today’s decision by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to forego a 2024 bait harvest of female horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay, where the crabs’ eggs fuel a globally significant stopover habitat for migratory shorebirds. Today’s decision avoids worsening conditions for shorebirds including the red knot, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and depends on crab eggs to complete its annual migration from as far south as Tierra del Fuego to its breeding grounds in the Arctic. The commission had considered a proposal to allow for the harvest of 175,000 female crabs after a 10-year prohibition.
“We appreciate that the ASMFC was risk averse in their decision not to authorize a quota for harvesting female horseshoe crabs,” said David Mizrahi, vice president of research and monitoring at New Jersey Audubon. “Given the significant flaws, unsubstantiated assumptions and ambiguous results of the current Adaptive Resource Management modeling framework, any decision to include females in the 2024 horseshoe crab harvest would be irresponsible.”
Last year, the commission decided not to authorize a bait harvest of female horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay in response to over 34,000 public comments opposing it. However, this year, the commission conducted a stakeholder survey of an undisclosed group hand-selected by the body on whether to harvest female horseshoe crabs, which conservation groups worried would be used to justify moving forward with the proposal. Only 40 people responded to that survey, and of those only 17 supported a female harvest.