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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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news releases

June 9, 2005

Contact: Peter G. Boger
(609) 984-1795


Two-Week Ban Will Allow Late Shorebirds to Feed and
Allow for Data Review of Horseshoe Crab Population

(05/74) TRENTON -- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced an emergency moratorium on the hand harvesting of horseshoe crabs in New Jersey to allow late arriving shorebirds time to feed on horseshoe crab eggs.

“The stunning decline in red knot numbers combined with the late arrival of these shorebirds this year makes clear that temporary emergency action is needed to protect these threatened natural resources,” Commissioner Campbell said. “New Jersey will do everything in our authority to halt the decline of the red knot while protecting the horseshoe crab population and fishery.”

The emergency two-week moratorium takes effect immediately and temporarily halts New Jersey’s horseshoe crab harvest season, which officially began yesterday. The season will reopen on June 23 and run through the normal closing date of August 15. Fishermen will still be permitted to catch up to the maximum 150,000-crab quota.

Surveys of the Delaware Bay noted the arrival this week of more than 3,000 red knots – critically threatened shorebirds that depend on horseshoe crab eggs to sustain their flights to the Arctic. These birds arrived much later in the season than usual. The temporary ban on horseshoe crab harvesting will allow the birds unencumbered access to feed and to proceed on their annual migration. The ban will also provide New Jersey time to obtain and to review all available data on the status of the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab population.

Delaware Bay’s beaches are the principal egg-laying grounds for the world's largest concentration of horseshoe crabs, and they attract the Western Hemisphere’s second largest spring concentration of migrating shorebirds. Scientists this year have noted the lowest concentration of horseshoe crab eggs ever on the beaches – approximately 1,500 eggs per square meter down from approximately 4,000 eggs per square meter just five years ago. The red knot population in Delaware Bay has declined from 95,000 in 1989 to around 15,000 in recent years.

New Jersey is calling for the emergency federal endangered species listing of the red knot. New Jersey will also work with Delaware to coordinate baywide efforts to protect the populations of red knots and horseshoe crabs. The state is also examining the possibility of providing some financial assistance to fishermen if harvests continue to be limited in the future.

The emergency rulemaking was filed today after Acting Governor Richard J. Codey certified the DEP’s Statement of Imminent Peril.




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Last Updated: June 14, 2005