By a vote of 5 (commercial fisheries special interest members) to 4 (recreational fishing members), the NJ Marine Fisheries Council has rejected the NJ Department of Environmental Protectionís proposed moratorium on the harvest of horseshoe crabs, setting the Red Knot on a path to extinction. Red Knots, a robin-sized shorebird, come to the Delaware Bay each spring after flying non-stop from Brazil. Knots rely on a superabundance of excess horseshoe crab eggs to nearly double their body weight in less than 2 weeks, before flying non-stop to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.
Due to the reckless overharvest of horseshoe crabs and a subsequent rapid decline of their eggs, the Red Knot population has plummeted from over 100,000 to only 14,800 currently wintering in Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America. According to over 30 scientists on 4 continents, the Red Knots are facing the imminent risk of extinction. Three other shorebirds, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, and Sanderling, are facing similar declines.
NJ Audubon Society members submitted over 500 letters and over 30 members testified in support of the moratorium. Despite this setback, NJ Audubon and its partners are committed to the recovery of Red Knots, other shorebirds and horseshoe crabs on the Delaware Bay.
We and our partners are researching our options for next steps. We will need your help in the near future, so please stay tuned.
In the mean time, I strongly encourage folks to write letters to the editor in papers (please copy me on submissions) which ran the story with the following points:
1) You strongly disagree with and are extremely disappointed in the NJ Marine Fisheries Council and its decision.
2) The NJ Marine Fisheries Council decision runs counter to the science and sets the Red Knot on a course towards extinction.
3) The NJ Marine Fisheries Council vote shows that the council represents special interests and not the public interest. New Jerseyans and future generations deserve and demand conservation of our natural heritage!
4) Thank NJ Department of Environmental Protection for its outstanding science and policy work.
5) Request that Governor Corzine and state legislators take immediate action to ensure a horseshoe crab harvest moratorium is enacted prior to April.
6) The moratorium needs to last until the Delaware Bay shorebird populations and spawning horseshoe crabs have fully recovered.
7) The Delaware Bay, our Serengeti, is one of the top four most important shorebird stopover sites in the world. We must be responsible stewards for this gem!
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or if you want help with letters to the editor.
Thanks again for all your efforts. Collectively, we will prevail!
Eric Stiles, Vice President for Conservation
New Jersey Audubon Society