Horseshoe Crab Management

posted in: Environmental Issues | 0

Chesapeake Bay blue crabs are not the only regional species under close scrutiny. Nearby, Delaware Bay and the mid-atlantic coast is a focus of interest as federal regulators consider the fate of horseshoe crab stocks.

Current management measures under Addendum IV to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Horseshoe Crabs due to expire by September 30, 2008. The Commission’s Horseshoe Crab Management Board announced the the initiation of Draft Addendum V.  The Draft Addendum will include all the current provisions of Addendum IV as well as an option for a harvest moratorium in New Jersey and Delaware.

Based on the most recent surveys of horseshoe crabs, it appears that management measures in Addendum IV and previous management plans are resulting in increased horseshoe crab abundance.  A horseshoe crab trawl survey administered by Virginia Tech shows increases over the past four to five years in all demographic groups of horseshoe crabs in ocean waters near the Delaware Bay.  A survey of spawning crabs on the beaches of Delaware Bay indicate stable female spawning activity and increased male spawning over the past nine years.

The board will be considering implications of horseshoe crab management due to multi-species concerns. Despite the positive signs in population growth of horseshoe crabs around Delaware Bay, red knots, one of many shorebird species that feed upon horseshoe crab eggs, show no sign of recovery. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Shorebird Technical Committee is expected to take a closer look this spring at the most recent shorebird survey data.

The Draft Addendum will be prepared for Management Board review in May 2008. Upon its approval, it will be released for public review and comment in early summer. The Board will meet in August 2008 to review input from the Horseshoe Crab Advisory Panel and the public, and consider final approval of the addendum.  For more information, please contact Braddock Spear, Senior Fisheries Management Plan Coordinator for Policy, at (202) 289-6400 or <>.

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