Board OKs Crab Fishing; Group Worries about Red Knot

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) Horseshoe Crab Management Board recently decided to maintain current horseshoe crab fishing quotas, permitting each state to take 100,000 male crabs per year, according to an Aug. 22 press release.

Members of the American Bird Conservancy were hoping the board would adopt a temporary moratorium in the interest of the needs of the Red Knot, a shorebird that relies on the crabs' eggs for survival.

"By maintaining harvest levels rather than adopting a temporary moratorium on all horseshoe crab take, the commission has dangerously underestimated the needs of both the crab and the Red Knot," said Darin Schroeder, vice president for Conservation Advocacy at American Bird Conservancy. "The ASMFC Management Board has failed to live up to its responsibility as an environmental steward, and ignored the Red Knot's economic benefits. Each year birdwatchers flock to beaches in Delaware, New Jersey, and Virginia to see the staging birds. Soon, there could be no more knots to watch, and it will be too late to act."

The knot relies almost entirely on horseshoe crab eggs during an annual stopover in Delaware Bay on its 10,000-mile migration from the tip of South America to the Arctic. A drastic increase in the take of horseshoe crabs in the mid-1990s for use as bait in conch pots has significantly diminished their numbers in the Bay, and consequently the bird's food supply. Scientists have predicted that the Red Knot could be extinct as soon as 2010.

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