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Jeremiah

Horseshoe Crab Heist

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On a trip to the Highlands Marina last summer, my wife my son and I were on our way to the Municipal fishing peir when we noticed dozens of Horseshoe crabs on their backs on the sand along side the peir. We went down and rescued them and sent them on there way.

 

We checked out the fishing and on our way back we noticed the crabs back up on the sand upside down againconfused.gif. I looked around and close by and noticed a pick up truck loaded with burlap bags full of them. We mentioned it to the Harbor officials and they seemed to know who it was and said they would handle it.

 

My Question is what would someone be doing with so many Horseshoe crabs ? Can anyone clue me in ?

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They use them for eel bait. A horseshoe crab in an eel pot is like a magnet for the eel's. Years and years ago that's how we used to bait our eel pots in Barnegat bay.

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Just saw a show on NJ horseshoe crabs. I believe they said there is no open season. More importantly they are used for some pharmaceutical use, they have a pure blood or pathogens or something and are vital to the making or testing of some medications. Never would have thought they were that important.

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View PostThe bigger question is ---is it legal to take horse shoe crabs for any purpose?????

 

 

No, it is not legal now, at least in NJ and DE. The 2-year moratorium was voted on last year and went into effect for NJ.

 

Whoever was collecting them was doing so illegally. I doubt you saw collection for research purposes.

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The harvest of the blood from the crabs is for testing of drugs, and it DOES NOT kill the crabs. The blood is either drawn immediately at the catch site and the crabs returned to the water, or they are collected LIVE and kept in holding tanks, transported to a facility where some of the blood is withdrawn, and then released back to the ocean or bay.

 

 

 

Burlap bags full of them most certainly were for bait purposes. I don't know the legality of that in various States, but I do know that in parts of Massachusetts (Cape Cod, specifically), it is illegal to bother them for ANY reason, including withdrawing the blood for the pharmaceutical purposes.

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I am not positive but I believe that a federal court made a decision making it legal to take Horseshoe crab. I cant recall details because it is second hand information to me, but there are federal regulations and each state is allowed to add more restrictions. I believe I was told that most states have not or have yet to add additional restrictions. The horseshoe crab was put on the restricted list because it is said that there eggs are vital to birds during there migration to where ever. That has been hard to proven and other markets have produced statically evidence that not harvesting them is hurting business.

I don"™t know what there populations are or what they should be but I have seen them everywhere this year in comparison to past years.

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Back maybe 6 years ago I was out on Cape Cod flyfishing for bass in June a noticed that they were baiting lobster pots with horseshoe crab. I am guessing this is no longer legal.

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If the crabs were dead/dying then the property owner has a right to remove them it looks like, but can't sell them.

 

 

HORSESHOE CRABS

The commercial horseshoe crab bait fishery in New Jersey is closed in 2007. An individual shall not catch, take, or attempt to catch or take or

land any horseshoe crabs from any beach or shoreline or from the marine waters of this State. The possession of horseshoe crabs is allowed only in

the following circumstances: 1) Property owners, tenants or agents of property owners may, at any time, remove dead horseshoe crabs from their

property for purposes of disposal. No sale, trade, or barter of these horseshoe crabs is allowed; 2) Persons collecting horseshoe crabs strictly for

scientific purposes only and operating under the terms and conditions specified by a required scientific collecting permit issued by the Administrator

of the Marine Fisheries Administration within the Division of Fish and Wildlife; and 3) those individuals in possession of a valid New Jersey

miniature fyke or a valid New Jersey lobster or fish pot license and in possession of bona fide written documentation that the horseshoe crabs were

obtained from a legal source

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Let me see if I can clear a little of this up. I work in the horseshoe crab biopharmaceutical industry. If someone was collecting crabs in the manner that you describe then it was probably illegal.

 

 

 

No one can harvest Horse shoe crabs for bait or pharmaceautical use, unless they possess a valid license issued by the DNR and dept of fisheries. That being said, eel and conch fisherman do get permits to use horseshoe crabs for bait where there is 100% mortality. Biopharm gets permits to harvest and return them to the ocean. Landowners can remove only dead crabs and dispose of them.

 

 

 

Biotech companies harvest horseshoe crabs to make a diagnostic assay to test for the presence of gram negative bacterial endotoxin in parenteral drugs (i.e. poisons from bacteria that will cause fever and/or death if present in injectable drugs). We transport them to a clean facility where they give a blood donation and then they are returned to the ocean. They are only allowed 1 donation per year and only so many crabs can be harvested from 3 main US companies on the east coast. One company is in Cape Cod, MA, another in Salisbury, MD and the last in NC.

 

 

 

Other facts:

 

Horseshoe crabs are not fit for human consumption.

 

They use to be used for pig feed stock.

 

Their blood is blue.

 

Their eggs are a main food stay of the red knot that migrates from S. America.

 

Without the crab, drugs would have to be tested in animals.

 

There are only 4 species and only in the Northern hemisphere on the east coast of continents.

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