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DNR Fisheries Service Recommends New Horseshoe Crab Harvest Ratio
Stronger Conservation Measures Aimed at Protecting Female Horseshoe Crabs and Migratory Shorebirds
To provide further protection to the Atlantic coast population of horseshoe crabs and increase the availability of horseshoe crab eggs in Delaware Bay to hemispheric migratory shorebird populations, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is implementing a 2:1 male to female horseshoe crab harvest ratio, effective April 1st. There is currently no sex ratio limit.
The State of Maryland has long taken a leadership role in the management of Atlantic coast populations of horseshoe crabs. In 1998, Maryland implemented actions to reduce its horseshoe crab landings by 72%. This leadership action led to the development of a coastwide horseshoe crab management plan through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in 1999. After 10 years, the Delaware Bay population of horseshoe crabs is showing signs of recovery. Unfortunately, similar signs of recovery of migratory shorebird populations are not evident and there is increasing risk of extinction to some species.
DNR is implementing this harvest ratio limit after conducting a technical analysis and reviewing public input on a range of management options, including closure of the female horseshoe crab fishery. This action will immediately increase the availability of horseshoe crab eggs to migratory shorebirds in Delaware Bay this May and June. Maryland watermen, both horseshoe crab harvesters and conch and eel fishermen who use horseshoe crabs as bait, will be impacted by this action but will retain their current harvest quota.
“The Department is responsible for the conservation and management of our natural resources,” said Tom O’Connell, Director, DNR Fisheries Service. “We also recognize the increasing dependency of horseshoe crabs to Ocean City watermen and seafood processors, and believe this is a prudent action that balances these needs while ensuring future generations have the opportunity to experience the Delaware Bay phenomenon between horseshoe crabs and shorebirds.”
Along with its vital role as part of the coastal ecosystem, the blood of the horseshoe crab provides a valuable medical product critical to maintaining the safety of many drugs and devices used in medical care. A protein in the blood called Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL) is used by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to test their products for the presence of endotoxins, bacterial substances that can cause fevers and even be fatal to humans. The LAL test is one of the most important medical products derived from a marine organism to benefit humans. This new action does not impact the biomedical industry.
March 17, 2009
Contact: Ray Weaver
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 449,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov