"A Planned Restart of a Crab Harvest Pits Conservation Against Industry"

"After a decade-long ban, the potential revival of crab harvesting in the Delaware Bay poses a threat to shorebirds, naturalists say."

"For the first time in 10 years, a fisheries regulator is poised to restart the harvest of female horseshoe crabs in the Delaware Bay, a policy change that conservationists say will threaten the survival of the Atlantic species of the red knot, an imperiled shorebird.

On Nov. 10, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will vote on whether to move toward lifting a ban on the female crab catch that had been imposed after overharvesting led to a severe decline in the populations of knots and other migratory shorebirds dependent on crab eggs as a critical food source.

Between 2003 and 2012, the population of female horseshoe crabs in the Delaware Bay was estimated at 3 million to 6 million, according to the commission. Since the ban took effect in 2013, the commission said, the bay’s female horseshoe crab population has rebounded to about 11.2 million.

Under the new proposal, the fishing industry across four bay states — New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia — would be allowed to catch a total of about 150,000 female crabs for bait next year. The fisheries commission contends that the quotas set would not threaten the crab population or the birds that feed on crab eggs. Quotas for the harvesting of 500,000 male crabs would stay the same next year."

Jon Hurdle reports for the New York Times November 8, 2022.

Source: NYTimes, 11/09/2022