The Issue

Each spring, hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs come ashore during spawning season to lay their eggs on Atlantic coast and Delaware Bay beaches.

While coming ashore many of these harmless ani­mals accidentally become overturned by waves, or become impinged or trapped in jetties or behind bulkheads.

Horseshoe crabs are very vulnerable when their soft undersides are exposed to the sun and are easy targets for predators. Thousands of horse­shoe crabs die each spawning season due to stranding on beaches.

Horseshoe Crab Conservation Concerns:

Horseshoe-crab-tagging_5-22-2013_002The Delaware Bay has long been the home to the largest concentration of spawning horseshoe crabs in the world, but this population has declined by 90% over the last 15 years because of over-harvesting and degraded habitat. This trend is not only an issue for the horseshoe crab population itself, but also for migrating shorebird species that depend on the horseshoe crab for survival.

In May and June each year horseshoe crabs use the Delaware Bay beaches to lay their eggs. At the same time shorebirds are migrating from South America to Arctic breeding grounds. To complete this journey – up to 9,000 miles long – shorebirds stop over in the Delaware Bay region to refuel on the high-calorie horseshoe crab eggs.

As the horseshoe crab population struggles, the shorebirds are unable to fatten on crab eggs to continue to the Arctic. And now many of these shorebird populations – including Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Dunlins – are also struggling.

You can help rescue horseshoe crabs in New Jersey through our reTURN the Favor program, keeping horseshoe crabs and shorebirds in the Delaware Bay for many years to come.