Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Horseshoe Crab Moratorium in Question

Speaking of red knots, New Jersey's Marine Fisheries Commission will decide next week whether to extend the two-year moratorium on harvesting horseshoe crabs. In the meantime, crabbers have appealed the existing ban.

A state appellate panel is considering an appeal by Delaware Bay commercial fishermen to overturn the state ban on harvesting horseshoe crabs for bait, and could issue a ruling any time after the state Marine Fisheries Commission decides Monday whether to extend the prohibition....

A lower court upheld New Jersey's 2006-07 harvest moratorium, which the state Department of Environmental Protection says was needed to maximize the egg numbers when red knots arrive in May, en route to their nesting grounds in arctic Canada....

One shorebird expert, Allan Baker of the Royal Ontario Museum, has plotted an "extinction curve" that shows the western Atlantic red knot rufa subspecies going extinct around 2010 if its current population trend continues.

The commercial fishermen from Cape May County are among license holders who were allowed a limited horseshoe crab harvest until New Jersey and Delaware imposed total moratoriums two years ago. Delaware watermen won a court challenge last June that allowed them a season of 100,000 male crabs.

That decision is being appealed to Delaware's state Supreme Court by environmental groups, said Maya K. van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
For background on red knots, see here.