Posted by: DarkEyedJunc0 | May 23, 2013

Of Horseshoe Crabs and Red Knots

Each May, an amazing bird, called a Red Knot makes a pit stop on the Delaware Bay to “fuel up.”

This year, I was fortunate enough to witness this phenomenon at Cook’s Beach in Cape May County, NJ.

Red Knots join other shorebirds and gulls for a nutrient rich snack

Red Knots join other shorebirds and gulls for a nutrient-rich snack as Horseshoe Crabs come ashore to lay their eggs

Fuel up, you ask?  

Well, they are on a long journey…  9300 miles, to be exact…

Where are they going, and what are they doing?

They are on their way (via the Atlantic Flyway) from their wintering grounds in Tierra del Fuego, South America, headed north to the Arctic to breed.

Why the Delaware Bay?

Delaware Bay is the last stop on this journey before they head straight to the Arctic!

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What are they “fueling up” on?

Horseshoe Crab eggs!

Why are there Horseshoe Crab eggs on the beach?

Each May, Horseshoe Crabs arrive on the shores to lay their eggs on the protected beaches around the Delaware Bay.

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A female can lay multiple clusters of 4,000 eggs per cluster…. up to as many as 100,000 total eggs!

The combination of sand and pebbles on the beach make it the ideal terrain for the eggs to incubate.

Oh great, so there’s an endless supply of food source, right?

Well, no!  Unfortunately, historically, Horseshoe Crabs have been harvested for a number of reasons.

Why are Horseshoe Crabs harvested?

    • for their blood (which is used to make a clotting agent in human medicine.)
    • for bait
    • for fertilizer
    • for animal food

Is anything being done to stop the harvesting?

In 1998, The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, representing 15 states from Maine to Florida, developed a horseshoe crab management plan.

In March 2008, NJ Audubon led the charge to “Halt the Harvest,” moratorium legislation signed by then governor, Jon Corzine.

So all is well that ends well?

It’s not that simple. Because the harvest represents a lot of profit, there is constant pressure to have the ban lifted by lobbyists… which is why if you care, you  must stay VIGILANT!

Where can I learn more?

http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionConservation/ShorebirdHorseshoeCrabConservationCampaign.aspx

http://www.njaudubon.org/Portals/10/Conservation/PDF/red_knot150.pdf

http://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/ensp/pdf/literature/crab-harvest_delbay_knots.pdf

http://www.defenders.org/press-release/red-knot-wintering-population-drops-more-5000-accelerating-slide-extinction

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