Conservation Group Advocating to Save Horseshoe Crabs

"This is a precious natural resource and we can't afford to take a chance of squandering it," said Patrick Comins, the executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society.

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The Connecticut Audubon Society is calling for a ban on harvesting horseshoe crabs in Connecticut.

“We strongly feel that the populations are so depleted right now that there needs to be an outright moratorium on the taking of horseshoe crabs and also a ban on the use of horseshoe crabs as bait in Connecticut," said Patrick Comins, the Connecticut Audubon Society executive director.

The horseshoe crab population has been declining in the Long Island Sound over the last 15 years, according to Comins.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection typically issues licenses to harvest horseshoe crabs. The season runs from May 22 to July 7 in Connecticut. In 2001, 12,175 crabs were harvested. That jumped to approximately 20,000 per year from 2013 to 2018. They are typically used as bait for eel, whelk or conch.

When thousands of adult horseshoe crabs are removed, the population can crash very quickly, according to Comins. The declining population also affects migrating shorebirds like the red knot.

“The eggs are really high in nutrient value and a lot of our migrating shorebirds rely on those eggs for their long migratory journeys. They time their migrations to arrive just as the horseshoe crabs are laying the eggs so that they can fatten up on them to continue their journeys all the way back up to as far as Hudson Bay and Alaska from here,” Comins said.

The Connecticut Audubon Society is urging the DEEP to ban harvesting. There is a public meeting on the issued scheduled for Thursday, February 20, 2020 at 7 p.m. at the Marine Headquarters at 333 Ferry Road in Old Lyme.

The horeshoe crabs play an irreplaceable role in modern medicine, but the crab population is declining. A team at UConn is conducting research in hopes to save them.
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