New Jersey's 8th Legislative District

Senator Jean Stanfield

Senator Jean Stanfield

Senate Panel Advances Stanfield Horseshoe Crab Resolution

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A bipartisan resolution sponsored by Senator Jean Stanfield and Senator Bob Smith protecting the horseshoe crab population in the Delaware Bay was endorsed today by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

A resolution sponsored by Senator Jean Stanfield protecting the horseshoe crab population in the Delaware Bay was endorsed by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. (Pixabay)

The resolution (SR-67) urges the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to continue prohibit the harvest of female horseshoe crabs, except for scientific purposes.

Currently, New Jersey has a moratorium on the harvesting of horseshoe crabs unless for the purpose of research or vaccine development. The ASMFC, which has managed the crab population in the Delaware Bay since 2013, approved a policy change in January that may allow for harvesting female horseshoe crabs.

“Lifting the harvesting ban on female horseshoe crabs is a bad idea that could jeopardize the fragile Delaware Bay ecosystem,” said Senator Stanfield (R-8). “Female crabs make up less than 25 percent of the bay’s horseshoe crab population, and the survival of the 350-million-year-old species is in the balance. It is a risk not worth taking, and we’re asking the Commission to think twice about lifting the protections in the bay, the spawning ground for the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world.”

While several bird and many fish species feed on horseshoe crabs and their eggs, it is the crabs’ blood that is most beneficial to humans.

The blood is an ingredient in a compound pharmaceutical companies use to test drugs for purity, ensuring that bacteria and other pathogens are not tainting the medicine.

“Blood from horseshoe crabs played a key role in the development of COVID-19 vaccine,” Stanfield noted. “Every drug manufacture depends on the blood to ensure medications are free of potentially deadly bacterial toxins. Health care in this country and across the globe relies on a robust horseshoe crab population.”

Sometimes referenced as “living fossils,” the Wetlands Institute said the distinctive crab is a “keystone species of the Delaware Bay” and “an animal that is very much depended upon by many other species participating in the ecosystem.”

Classified as a “near threatened” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature,” horseshoe crabs are a crucial food source for red knots, a threatened shore bird species which passes through the bay region on their annual migration from the Arctic Circle to the tip of Argentina.

The red knots consume crab eggs, a source of life sustaining fat for the long journey south, and the crabs and their eggs also support the bay’s fish populations.

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