Tuesday, December 04, 2007

New Jersey Plans to Extend Horseshoe Crab Moratorium

The Inquirer reports that New Jersey is seeking to extend its moratorium on the harvest of horseshoe crabs around Delaware Bay. The proposal is as follows:

Take notice that the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife is proposing an amendment to N.J.A.C. 7:25-18.16 to continue the moratorium on the horseshoe crab commercial bait fishery. A moratorium was previously implemented on the harvest of horseshoe crabs, effective May 15, 2006 through December 31, 2007, for the purpose of improving conditions immediately for the threatened red knot (Calidris canutus rufa), as well as other migratory shorebirds whose survival depends upon an abundant supply of horseshoe crab eggs in Delaware Bay. The red knot population is in jeopardy, as data and modeling show high risk of species extinction within five years. Recent analysis of the effect of the 2006-2007 moratorium of crab harvest has shown conditions have not yet improved for the red knot and other migrant shorebirds that depend on horseshoe crab eggs. However, given a decade of intensive harvest focused exclusively on large, breeding-age crabs, two years is not long enough to assess the success of a moratorium on recruitment of new crabs into the population. It is, therefore, necessary to continue a moratorium until crab egg densities and shorebird abundances begin to respond to the increase in the number of younger-aged crabs coming into the breeding population.
Before implementation, the proposed extension of the horseshoe crab moratorium is subject to a public comment period, which ends February 1, 2008. The linked site has directions for submitting comments. Birders who support the moratorium should comment, since there will probably be organized opposition to it.

For more information about red knots and threats to their survival, see the NJDEP, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Audubon WatchList.