Friday, August 22, 2008

Horseshoe crabs -- and birds -- lose a round

At yesterday's meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's horseshoe crab management board, the board chose to maintain fishing quotas that allow states to harvest 100,000 male crabs a year. Concerns about horseshoe crab harvests, the resulting loss of horseshoe crab eggs on beaches and the impact on migrating shorebirds such as Red Knots have galvanized many birders, who wrote letters to the board.

The American Bird Conservancy disagrees with the board's decision. In a press release, Darin Schroeder, vice president for conservation advocacy, said,
“By maintaining harvest levels rather than adopting a temporary moratorium on all horseshoe crab take, the Commission has dangerously underestimated the needs of both the crab and the Red Knot. The ASMFC Management Board has failed to live up to its responsibility as an environmental steward, and ignored the Red Knot’s economic benefits. Each year birdwatchers flock to beaches in Delaware, New Jersey, and Virginia to see the staging birds. Soon, there could be no more knots to watch, and it will be too late to act.”
Thank goodness for birders' efforts -- like those of Delmarva Ornithological Society -- to purchase migratory shorebird habitat (page 6 of the Sept/Oct issue of WildBird) that helps Red Knots.

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5 Comments:

Blogger tai haku said...

There's something about this horseshoe crab campaign I don't like and your title addresses it in a way Amy.

There seems a lot of complaint that destroying the horseshoe crab population will cause the knots problems but much less complaint about the loss of the crabs themselves. These things have been around for aeons and deserve a little more respect for their own value (biological and commercial) in Japan their species of HC is pretty much done for and has its own museum as a result.

Sorry for the rant - not directed at you (who correctly notes the impact on the crabs themselves and then birds) but its something I've been meaning to get off my chest.

August 22, 2008 2:04 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

No need to apologize for expressing your thoughts calmly and coherently.

Perhaps more bloggers can post their opinions on their blogs, spread the word and contact the board members who make decisions affecting horseshoe crabs and birds.

August 22, 2008 2:33 PM  
Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

I saw this issue documented on a PBS program. How sorry I am to hear that the Fisheries Commission made this possibly drastic decision! I have never seen a Red Knot before and now wonder if I ever will! Thank you for blogging about this issue and informing all of us about what is going on. And I agree, the horseshoe crabs need to be protected for their own sake also. It would be a shame to loose this almost prehistoric looking creature.

August 26, 2008 3:02 PM  
Blogger OpposableChums said...

This is a very good point. I think that we birders, as students of nature, need to stress in our speech, writing, and actions an appreciation not only for the delicate interdependencies of all fauna and flora, but for the value of those life forms in and of themselves.

So kudos to Amy, Tai, and Kathie for highlighting a neglected harmonic issue of this hot-button topic.

August 30, 2008 4:47 PM  
Blogger elizabird said...

The reason that horseshoe crabs are harvested is twofold.
Their blood is used in medical applications to test everything that penetrates human flesh--needles,vaccinations,sutures,scapels-- to check for contaminates. The horseshoe carabs are drained of the blood and released. Hopefully some of these 50,000 or so will live to mate.

The other reason horseshoe crabs are harvested is to be used as bait.
Bait to catch conch that is sold to European markets. The local watermen know that males are far less appealing to the conch than females. Who knows what the status of the conch is under the ocean. As far as I know no one is studying their populations. This is another species that is connected to the horseshoe debacle but out of sight.

At least one of the old school horseshoe crab experts think that to not harvest crabs is foolish. they tear up the beaches. I recently attended the Green Eggs and Sand Training. I highly recommend it to all science teachers and interested parties concerned about the horseshoe crab debacle.

I was on the one of the winnning teams for the Birdathon this year. My team raised about $5000 to help buy the land for the DOS Birdathon that you mentioned. It feels good to help. We are always looking for corporate sponsors and private sponsors to support the Birdathon. The best thing is the money goes to buy beach in Prime Hook NWR.

I wish we had better news about the harvest limits...it is a tough issue.

Keep the faith,
Liz

September 01, 2008 5:49 AM  

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