by Alison Cross, originally published by The Hartford Courant

A Connecticut-based animal advocacy organization has petitioned the federal government to classify an animal that lives in a Long Island Sound as an endangered species.

“The goal is to create an effective and uniform method to protect these (the Atlantic horseshoe crab) species from exploitation and to protect them from extinction,” said Jennifer Best, the director of Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program.

This month, Friends of Animals submitted a petition to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to list the Atlantic horseshoe crab as “endangered” or “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act — a designation that would prohibit the killing of horseshoe crabs without a permit on the eastern seaboard.

The petition argues that current protections under a Fisheries Management Plan are incapable of protecting horseshoe crabs from overfishing, habitat loss and bleeding by the pharmaceutical industry, which they say is driving the species to extinction.

In Connecticut, the horseshoe crab population has deteriorated since the early 2000s. Last year, researchers from Sacred Heart University labeled Long Island Sound’s horseshoe crab as “functionally extinct.”

This summer, Connecticut enacted a statewide ban on horseshoe crab harvests, joining New Jersey and parts of Delaware and South Carolina in expanding protections.

A notice posted at Short Beach in Stratford marks the area as a zone where horseshoe crab harvesting is prohibited. Stratford was one of four towns in the state to ban horseshoe crab harvesting before the new statewide ban passed in 2023.
While Best said state-level regulations are important, she emphasized the need for uniform horseshoe crab conservation at the federal level. According to the Friends of Animals petition, research has shown that “when one region strengthens its regulations, other regions experience corresponding increases in harvest rates.”

“Unfortunately, if one state has some regulations and surrounding states don’t, then the industries can kind of shift and still collect just as many horseshoe crabs,” Best said.

More than 750,000 Atlantic horseshoe crabs were harvested as whelk and eel bait in 2021, according to Friends of Animals

Over the next 40 years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species projects that Atlantic horseshoe crab populations will shrink “100% in the Gulf of Maine, 92% in New England, 11% in New York, 55% in Florida Atlantic and 32% in Northeast Gulf of Mexico.”

Friends of Animals said this isn’t just bad news for the horseshoe crab. The population decline is also detrimental to the shore birds and other marine life that rely on horseshoe crabs and their eggs for food, including the endangered Red Knot bird and the Atlantic loggerhead turtle.

(Read the full article here)