Support Urgently Needed
for Horseshoe Crab Legislation

Pat Sziber

In response to the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council’s short-sighted rejection of renewal of the moratorium on harvest of horseshoe crabs, several New Jersey legislators quickly put together companion bills that would, if approved, override NJMFC’s decision. NJ Senate bill S1331 and its twin, A2260, would impose a complete moratorium on harvest and possession of horseshoe crabs "until such time as (1) the population of the red knot shorebird reaches a population of 240,000 established in the United States Shorebird Conservation Plan of May 2001; or (2) a fisheries management plan which, based upon scientific study and evidence, demonstrates and guarantees to the satisfaction of the Department of Environmental Protection that a more than adequate food supply from horseshoe crab eggs for shorebirds and population viability for both shorebirds and horseshoe crabs exist." View the bills at Click on "Bills 2008-2009" and enter the bill number.

These bills need to be approved and signed by the Governor before the horseshoe crab spawn begins and red knots and other shorebirds begin to arrive on the Delaware Bayshore in May. In recent years, the horseshoe crab population in the bay has been severely depleted by over-harvesting by the 39 licensed commercial fishermen who use the crabs as bait for conch and eels. As a result, their eggs have dwindled to a small fraction of what they were 10 or 15 years ago and the birds are unable to replenish the body weight lost in the long journey from the tip of South America. When they finally arrive on their breeding grounds in the Arctic, they are underweight and in poor breeding condition. As a result, the number of red knots, subspecies rufa in particular, is not being replenished and the population is getting dangerously close to the point of collapse.

What you can do: Contact your state senator and your two state assemblypersons and urge them to expedite passage of Senate Bill S1331 and Assembly Bill A2260, respectively. Look up your legislators and their contact information at Click on "members." Also contact Governor Corzine and urge him to sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk. You can e-mail him at


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Last revision: Thursday, March 13, 2008