What is a horseshoe crab?
Though it might display an intimidating appearance, the American Horseshoe Crab is actually a harmless member of the arthropod family that habituates the shallow western shores of the Atlantic Ocean (Maine to the Yucatan Peninsula). In fact, the neighboring Delaware Bay is home to the world’s largest spawning ground for Horseshoe Crabs.
Why do they need help?
-The Delaware Bay’s Horseshoe Crab population has declined by 90% over the last 150 years- mostly due to overharvesting by fishermen.
-The Horseshoe Crab is an important “keystone species” for the Delaware Bay, as many other species participating in the ecosystem depend on the health of the Horseshoe Crab for their own survival.
-Shorebirds such as the Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, and the Sanderling depend upon Horseshoe Crab eggs deposited along the banks of the Delaware Bay for their own nutritional welfare.
-Shorebirds will spend approximately 2 weeks dining on these eggs in order to double their body weight and regain important energy that is needed to continue with their migrations that take them from South America to the Arctic.
-Because Horseshoe Crab numbers have plummeted over time, so have the number of eggs that are laid upon the Delaware’s shores. This not only threatens the horseshoe crab population itself, but also threatens the shorebird populations that rely on horseshoe crabs eggs as energy sources. Shorebird numbers have in turn also plummeted over the years as the Red Knot, for example, has now been placed on New Jersey’s Endangered Species List.
The Wetlands Institute has embarked on a new statewide partnership project to support the stewardship and conservation of Horseshoe Crab populations in New Jersey. As part of this partnership, the Wetlands Institute is taking proactive steps in population restoration by utilizing aquaculture techniques to help restore local population numbers. During the spring, fertilized Horseshoe Crab eggs are collected from marginal spawning beaches along the Delaware Bay and reared under controlled conditions in our aquarium. After about a month, eggs hatch and newly born Horseshoe Crabs are maintained in their culture tanks. These small crabs are kept in culture tanks until the end of summer or when they are ready to begin feeding. Young crabs will then be released at their respective egg collection locations and tagged with coded wire to enable researchers to evaluate survival post release. By raising a number of horseshoe crabs to their juvenile stages of life, the Wetlands Institute and its partners hope to improve the survival rates of juvenile crabs and increase the overall population of Horseshoe Crabs in the Delaware Bay.
What will your contribution be used for?
Your donation will be used to help fund the Horseshoe Crab Conservation Program at the Wetlands Institute. Different components in need of funding consist of:
-Aquaculture/ tank system maintenance
-Horseshoe Crab care
-Horseshoe Crab tags
-Horseshoe Crab surveys
-Outreach and conservation initiatives & materials
$10- Adopt a Clutch of Horseshoe Crab Eggs
-An adoption certificate, Horseshoe Crab conservation information, and a photograph of your young Horseshoe Crab(s).
$50 Adopt a Juvenile Horseshoe Crab
-All of the above plus Horseshoe Crab conservation program updates and a Horseshoe Crab pin.
$150- Adopt a Horseshoe Crab Survey Night
-All of the above plus a Horseshoe Crab plush toy and an invitation to join us on a Horseshoe Crab survey in the spring.