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450 Million Years And Counting

By John Bloomfield for The Island Eye News

There is a crisis facing horseshoe crabs and the fish and bird life that depend on the crab’s eggs to survive. To raise public awareness, seek legislative and regulatory reforms and encourage the adoption of an already available synthetic alternative to the use of horseshoe crab blood in biomedical testing, a coalition of leading conservation groups and businesses has formed a new partnership known as the Horseshoe Crab Recovery Coalition. The group, which includes Audubon South Carolina, aims to stem the dramatic decline of horseshoe crabs, a species that has lived for nearly 450 million years, and restore balance to the fragile ecosystem for birds and marine life on the Atlantic Coast.

In addition to Audubon South Carolina, the coalition’s diverse membership includes the National Wildlife Federation; National Audubon Society; Audubon organizations in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Connecticut and Massachusetts; Defenders of Wildlife; Revive & Restore; American Bird Conservancy; American Littoral Society; and Wildlife Restoration Partnerships.

Said Audubon South Carolina Coastal Program Associate Nolan Schillerstrom: “Audubon South Carolina is proud to join the Horseshoe Crab Coalition and work among the nation’s leading conservation organizations to recover horseshoe crab populations. Once-massive horseshoe crab spawning events have become almost nonexistent in South Carolina and we – and the shorebirds – have taken notice.”

The HCRC recently released a letter to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which coordinates the conservation and management of near-shore marine life, outlining its primary concerns.

“More than 20 years after ASMFC management began, horseshoe crab restoration remains an unattained goal,” the letter states.

“While current management has helped to stabilize the decline of the horseshoe crab population, an improved restoration strategy is needed to attain goals set by the ASMFC in cooperation with the conservation community.”

The new coalition has four primary goals:

  • 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 depend on horseshoe crab eggs as an essential food source;
  • Institute policies that reform the horseshoe crab bleeding industry to reduce mortality and other impacts;
  • Encourage pharmaceutical companies to adopt the use of rFC, the synthetic alternative to horseshoe crab-derived LAL, in their testing procedures;
  • Raise awareness of the importance of the horseshoe crab by engaging volunteers in efforts to conserve crabs along the Atlantic coast.

To learn more about the Horseshoe Crab Recovery Coalition, visit hscrabrecovery.org.

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