Fisheries Regulators Choose Short-term Economic Interest Over Species Survival

Washington, DC, August 22, 2008 − Today the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Horseshoe Crab Management Board once again failed to take the necessary action of approving a moratorium on horseshoe crab fishing in key states. In doing so, they acquiesced to the short-term interests of a few crab fishermen while ignoring the immediate and long-term needs of an imperiled shorebird, which relies on the crabs’ eggs for its survival.

Instead of imposing a ban on horseshoe crab take, the board opted to maintain current fishing quotas, still permitting each state to take 100,000 male crabs per year.

“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 arduous 10,000 mile migration from the tip of South America to the Arctic. Without the fat-rich diet of horseshoe crab eggs, the bird’s ability to successfully complete its long-distance migration to its breeding grounds in the Arctic is severely compromised. 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. The decrease has jeopardized the Red Knot to the point where scientists have predicted that it could go extinct as soon as 2010.

“There is a fundamental change required at the ASMFC Management Board. Their inadequate and blinkered mandate needs to be widened to include all marine resources affected by their actions, not just limited commercial interests,” said Schroeder.

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American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to conserve native wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts to safeguard the rarest bird species, restore habitats, and reduce threats, while building capacity in the conservation movement. ABC is the voice for birds, ensuring that they are adequately protected; that sufficient funding is available for bird conservation; and that land is protected and properly managed to maintain viable habitat. ABC is a 501(c)(3) membership organization that is consistently awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group, Charity Navigator.