Two-Week Ban Will Allow Late Shorebirds to Feed and Allow for Data
Review of Horseshoe Crab Population
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner
Bradley M. Campbell today announced an emergency moratorium on the hand
harvesting of horseshoe crabs in New Jersey to allow late arriving
shorebirds time to feed on horseshoe crab eggs.
"The stunning decline in red knot numbers combined with the late
arrival of these shorebirds this year makes clear that temporary
emergency action is needed to protect these threatened natural
resources," Commissioner Campbell said. "New Jersey will do everything
in our authority to halt the decline of the red knot while protecting
the horseshoe crab population and fishery."
The emergency two-week moratorium takes effect immediately and
temporarily halts New Jersey's horseshoe crab harvest season, which
officially began yesterday. The season will reopen on June 23 and run
through the normal closing date of August 15. Fishermen will still be
permitted to catch up to the maximum 150,000-crab quota.
Surveys of the Delaware Bay noted the arrival this week of more than
3,000 red knots - critically threatened shorebirds that depend on
horseshoe crab eggs to sustain their flights to the Arctic. These birds
arrived much later in the season than usual. The temporary ban on
horseshoe crab harvesting will allow the birds unencumbered access to
feed and to proceed on their annual migration. The ban will also provide
New Jersey time to obtain and to review all available data on the status
of the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab population.
Delaware Bay's beaches are the principal egg-laying grounds for the
world's largest concentration of horseshoe crabs, and they attract the
Western Hemisphere's second largest spring concentration of migrating
shorebirds. Scientists this year have noted the lowest concentration of
horseshoe crab eggs ever on the beaches - approximately 1,500 eggs per
square meter down from approximately 4,000 eggs per square meter just
five years ago. The red knot population in Delaware Bay has declined
from 95,000 in 1989 to around 15,000 in recent years.
New Jersey is calling for the emergency federal endangered species
listing of the red knot. New Jersey will also work with Delaware to
coordinate baywide efforts to protect the populations of red knots and
horseshoe crabs. The state is also examining the possibility of
providing some financial assistance to fishermen if harvests continue to
be limited in the future.
The emergency rulemaking was filed today after Acting Governor Richard
J. Codey certified the DEP's Statement of Imminent Peril.