MA Seeks Greater Protection for Horseshoe Crabs

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is proposing new regulations that would prohibit the harvesting of horseshoe crabs during the crabs’ spring spawning season (April 15 to June 7). Horseshoe crabs are harvested for bait in the whelk fishery and for use in the biomedical industry. In the latter, companies collect the crabs, extract some of their blood then return the animals to the ocean. However, it’s estimated that 15% to 30% of crabs die in the process.

The horseshoe crab population is currently listed as “fairly stable” in Massachusetts, according to the Division of Marine Fisheries. However, there are fewer crabs in state waters than in the past, which can affect shorebird populations, as many migratory bird species depend on the eggs as a food source.

The state will hold public hearings on the proposed regulations on Feb. 28 and 29.