Monday, August 1, 2011

Horseshoe Crab Survey Funding Secured

Full funding for the 2011 Virginia Tech Horseshoe Crab Trawl Survey has been secured through a matching donation from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). NFWF funds match the combined $100,000 contribution from Lonza Walkersville, Inc. and Charles River Laboratory, providing the full $200,000 needed for survey operations in 2011.

Horseshoe crabs, Limulus polyphemus, provide the backdrop for one of the most interesting marine resource management issues along the Atlantic coast. They play a vital ecological role in the migration of shorebirds along the entire Atlantic seaboard, as well as providing bait for commercial American eel and conch fisheries along the coast. Additionally, their unique blood is used by the biomedical industry to produce Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate (LAL), an important tool in the detection of contaminants in patients, drugs and other medical supplies. The challenge of fisheries managers is to ensure that horseshoe crabs are managed to meet all these diverse needs, while conserving the resource for its self-perpetuation.

The survey, which has been administered by Virginia Tech since 2002, is the only survey designed to sample the horseshoe crab population in coastal waters. Its data are a critical component of the coastwide stock assessment and the new Adaptive Resource Management (ARM) framework, both of which were endorsed through an independent peer review in 2009. The ARM framework includes modeling that links management of horseshoe crab harvest to multispecies objectives, particularly red knot shorebird recovery. It was developed jointly by the Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey in recognition of the importance of horseshoe crab eggs to shorebirds in the Delaware Bay Region.

"We are thrilled that the 2011 survey can be conducted with the combined funds from NFWF and the biomedical industry," stated Thomas O'Connell, ASMFC Horseshoe Crab Board Chair and Maryland DNR Fisheries Service Director. "Without the initial commitments of the biomedical companies and the fishing industry, this opportunity could not have materialized. I hope that these commitments will spur other interested groups to pledge resources, as the 2012 survey is still in need of funding."

"Ensuring that there are adequate horseshoe crab resources to support rebuilding Delaware Bay shorebird populations depends upon good science and management, which this survey and the ARM framework support," said Dr. Anthony Chatwin, Director of Marine and Coastal Conservation at NFWF. "We are happy to help support the survey this year, particularly when all of us are being challenged by tight budgets."

Additional donations have been pledged by Associates of Cape Cod, Inc., and members of the horseshoe crab and whelk industry including the Chesapeake Bay Packing, LLC, Bernie's Conchs, LLC, LaMonica Fine Foods, Southern Connection Seafood, Inc., Sea King Corp., Spot's Fish Company, and Delaware Valley Fish Company. These funds will provide seed money for the 2012 survey, the status of which will be based on the ability to secure full funding.

Little is known about the status of the horseshoe crab population. Limited time-series of horseshoe crab population data make it difficult to assess its status. However, the 2009 stock assessment and peer review concluded increasing trends in abundance in the southeast and Delaware Bay regions, and decreasing abundance in the New York and New England regions. In 2000, the Commission established state-by-state quotas in all Atlantic states for crabs harvested for bait. In 2006, through Addendum IV the Commission further reduced quotas in New Jersey and Delaware and added additional protection in Maryland and Virginia to increase horseshoe crab and egg abundance in and around Delaware Bay in response to decreasing migratory shorebird populations.

NFWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring the nation's native wildlife species and habitats. Created by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public and private conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs, facilitating matching funds throughout the process.

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SOURCE: news release from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

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