Besides their extraordinary antiquity, horseshoe crabs are also of paramount importance to human health. Their blood contains a clotting agent, LAL (Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate), which provides a fast, reliable test for the presence of infections bacteria in drugs, as well as prosthetic devices such as heart valves and hip replacements.
Since 1991, the Wetlands Institute has brought scientists and volunteer citizens together to conduct censuses of the ecologically vital horseshoe crab population on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Bay. These censuses take place during May and June and are central to our understanding and responsible management of this ancient marine creature.
Horseshoe Crab Conservation
The Horseshoe Crab, an important keystone species of the Delaware Bay, is an animal that is very much depended upon by many other species participating in the ecosystem. Shorebirds such as the Red Knot (Calidris canutus), Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), and the Sanderling (Calidris alba) depend upon Horseshoe Crab eggs deposited along the banks of the Delaware Bay for their own nutritional welfare.
Unfortunately this natural phenomenon is in peril as the number of Horseshoe Crabs in the Delaware Bay has dramatically decreased over time.
Click here to read an article published in the New York Times discussing the relationship between shorebirds and horseshoe crabs.
The Wetlands Institute is a leading partner in the multi-partner reTURN the Favor program. This program works to rescue overturned or impinged Horseshoe Crabs stranded on New Jersey’s Delaware Bay beaches. Though this program works to rescue Horseshoe Crabs on beaches open to the public, it primarily concentrates on rescuing crabs stranded on beach areas seasonally closed during shorebird migration and the Horseshoe Crab spawning season occurring in May and June.