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Reduce horseshoe crab mortality from bycatch. Manage horseshoe crab bait fisheries to ensure that populations are large enough to support the needs of other species like the red knot and weakfish that consume their eggs. In 2009, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Committee (ASMFC) devised the Adaptive Resource Management (ARM) Model with the intention of restoring horseshoe crab populations to levels prior to the overharvest of the 1990's. Unfortunately, little progress has been made in the 10 years since the model was introduced. Commercial fishing trawls use large nets to catch large amounts of fish quickly and are mostly targeted toward a certain species. All of the other marine animals that are caught by being hooked or entangled during this process are defined as bycatch. Estimating crab mortality from bycatch has proven difficult due to a historical lack of monitoring. Enforce the ASMFC's ARM model. We stand ready to assist the ASMFC in achieving a better management plan for the rapid recovery of horseshoe crabs along the Atlantic Coast. We are asking for greater accountability from the commercial fishing industry in monitoring and reducing bycatch mortality.

Work with states to ensure compliance. Institute policies that reform the horseshoe crab bleeding industry to reduce mortality and other impacts. Reduce bleeding mortality to zero. The ASMFC does not have jurisdiction over the activities of LAL producers, so states must provide regulatory oversight to ensure compliance with best practices. We aim to work with state governments to provide oversight for LAL producers that will minimize crab mortality. Biomedical companies currently experience little pressure to reduce LAL bleeding mortality, which may be as high as 30%. We are calling for the creation and implementation of best management practices that are designed around minimizing crab mortality and adverse health effects during the bleeding process.

Encourage pharmaceutical companies to adopt the use of the synthetic LAL alternative (rFC) for use in testing procedures. Partner with biomedical industry to encourage use of synthetic alternative rFC. The biopharmaceutical industry relies on limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL), a chemical extracted from horseshoe crab blood, in order to test for and detect endotoxins in drugs and equipment. A synthetic alternative, recombinant factor C (rFC), has been shown in recent studies to be a safe and reliable alternative to LAL, and may be even more effective as an endotoxin detector than LAL.

Cost estimates for the synthetic are comparable to natural LAL, but the synthetic is far easier to create and sustain production without relying on unpredictable variations in wildlife populations.
PHOTO: Jan van de Kam / "Life on Delaware Bay"

Raise awareness of the importance of the horseshoe crab by engaging volunteers in efforts to conserve crabs along the Atlantic Coast. We will help support and implement beach restoration efforts to maximize beach habitat that can support a healthy crab population. Restore and protect habitat. Build a movement. Restore horseshoe crab populations. The most critical part of any movement for change is building a coalition of people who care. By spreading awareness of horseshoe crabs and their importance to both the natural world and humanity, we help strengthen our message. Habitat loss has devastated horseshoe crab populations along the Atlantic Coast. Beaches have been scarred due to development and erosion, reducing usable habitat for spawning horseshoe crabs. Debris that ends up on beaches presents ample opportunities for crabs to become stuck and eventually perish. Horseshoe crabs are a keystone species, meaning that they provide a vital function to their ecosystem and that their absence would spell ecological disaster. The reduction in horseshoe crab populations has put an enormous strain on the bird, fish, and reptile species that depend upon them as less of their eggs are available to be eaten. On an individual level, we can take actions to be better stewards of the horseshoe crab and Atlantic coast ecosystem. Whether volunteering for group efforts to turn over flipped crabs on the beach, reporting tagged crabs, or simply following seasonal beach closures, we can do our part to help protect our horseshoe crabs. By protecting horseshoe crabs, we are helping provide a future for the natural world that relies on them.

Click here to see the scientific evidence that is the foundation of our campaign. By pursuing these goals, we aim to fully restore horseshoe crab populations by 2030.