Current regulations for harvesting horseshoe crabs vary from state to state and none exist that are coast-wide. Most states have some restrictions as to when, where, and how harvesting can take place but most do not have regulations that restrict the overall take of crabs. This is clearly evidenced by the rapid increase in the overall harvest of crabs witnessed in the past few years. There are efforts under way to create stricter regulations both at the state level and coast-wide. While environmental organizations are pushing for these regulations, crabbers are fighting any new restrictions. Public support will be an important aspect of the regulatory process.
On May 30, 1997, based on this year's alarming decrease in horsehsoe crabs and shorebirds on the New Jersey shores, Governor Whitman announced a 60-day emergency moratorium banning the harvest of horseshoe crabs in New Jersey. The moratorium period will be used to determine what further actions are necessary.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is in the process of developing regulations for both American Eel and Horseshoe Crab for the entire Atlantic coast. These regulations will be instituted in the spring of 1998. A technical panel and an industry panel are in the process of developing recommendations for the commission. Carl Safina from the National Audubon Society (NAS) is a participant on the industry panel.
Several environmental agencies including National Audubon, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), and New Jersey Audubon are asking that emergency moratoriums on the harvest of horseshoe crabs be put into place until strict new regulations can be established. The following are some of the positions of these organizations:
You can help by calling or writing to participants of the above regulatory processes to express your support for harvest regulations that will maintain horseshoe crabs at a level that supports the shorebirds that depend on their eggs. The names, addresses, and phone numbers of suggested people to contact are provided below:
You can contact the following individuals for an update and model letters:
There will also be public meetings associated with the above regulatory processes that you can attend to express your opinions. Find out more about the processes for the above states and ASMFC and stay involved.