Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May Means Horseshoe Crabs and Red Knots

Red Knots - NFWS photo
Horseshoe crab photo: Andre Malok via The Star-Ledger

Besides the cicadas being a sign and sound of summer in New Jersey, horseshoe crabs heading onshore for nesting sites on Delaware Bay beaches birds such as Red Knots feasting on their eggs are another early summer nature ritual.

Those egg counts are down because too few female crabs are laying eggs. That not only means that our horseshoe crab population may be in danger, but also it means Red Knot populations are nearer to being very endangered and closer to extinction. These two species are tightly linked.

Fewer birds mating in the Arctic is likely since fewer numbers of juveniles have been reported at their wintering grounds in Argentina. An aging population is another bad sign.

Throw in some politics to the mix. Once again, there are people calling for lifting the moratorium on harvesting horseshoe crabs. That would hit the numbers very hard, especially in this first summer following Superstorm Sandy which affected the crab nesting landscape.

Since 2008, New Jersey has banned the harvesting of horseshoe crabs to support both the crab and migrating bird populations. NJ is the only state with stringent laws. On the other side, State Senator Jeff Van Drew and Assemblyman Nelson Albano want to revoke the current laws in support of the fishing industry in South Jersey which uses horseshoe crab as bait for eels.

How sad that this crab which has been here for 450 million years might vanish given 50 years of abuse.

If you would like to support those who believe the moratorium should be continued at this time, you can get information and sign a petition at change.org/petitions/

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