For nearly eight years, [New Jersey] has protected the horseshoe crabs from fishermen in the hope it would boost the bird’s dwindling numbers worldwide. But that could soon change.
A moratorium protecting horseshoe crabs along New Jersey’s shoreline could soon be lifted, as proposed in a state Assembly bill that’s before a committee today in Trenton.
Environmentalists say lifting the moratorium would up-end a delicate balance in the food chain that’s just beginning to stabilize, after years of over-fishing. The seafood industry says allowing collection of the crabs again would give certain parts of the fishing industry a desperately needed source of bait.
The ongoing ban would end with passage of the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D - Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland). The measure is before the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this afternoon.
The ban on horseshoe crabs went into effect in 2006 because of concerns about the red knot, fueling it for its long trek. The bird relies on eating the crab eggs along the route, experts say – and the bird population and the crab eggs are both in sharp decline, they add. The initial ban was extended indefinitely by the Legislature in 2008.
Environmentalists say lifting the restrictions now would not only harm the crab population – but also the red knots, which rely on them for food.
It’s far too soon to lift the moratorium.
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