In 2008, New Jersey put a halt to the harvest of horseshoe crabs in our waters. Environmental groups worked hard to get the moratorium in place because the overharvest of the crabs was resulting in plummeting population numbers. The resulting dramatic decline in the number of eggs being laid on the bay shore resulted in insufficient food for migrating shorebirds, who need to replenish fat stores lost on their long trip from the southern hemisphere before they continue on to the Arctic to breed. Numbers of red knot, ruddy turnstone, sanderling and semipalmated sandpiper have declined precipitously.
It boggles the mind that bills have been introduced in the New Jersey legislature that would repeal the moratorium. S2376 was introduced in December and has been referred to the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. A companion bill, A2653, was introduced in the Assembly in January and has been referred to the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The text of both bills is identical and calls for repeal of the moratorium on the taking, landing, and possession of horseshoe crabs in the State. The text states that once the moratorium is eliminated “…State fishermen will once again be authorized to catch horseshoe crabs in an amount that is consistent with federal horseshoe crab fishing quotas established by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.” But horseshoe crabs in the Delaware Bay have shown no sign of recovery. Furthermore, scientists estimate that about 50% of prime horseshoe crab habitat has been lost in the Delaware Bay as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
What can you do? Please contact your State Senator and Assemblypersons and tell them that repeal of the moratorium would be a grave mistake with negative consequences, not only for shorebirds and the crabs themselves, but also for New Jersey’s multi-million dollar wildlife watching tourism industry. Find their contact information at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp.