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Senator Van Drew and Assemblyman Albano have proposed lifting the current State moratorium that prohibits taking of horseshoe crabs from State waters. (S-2376 and A-2653, 2013.) The moratorium was passed by an overwhelming majority in 2008 in an effort to allow horseshoe crabs and shorebirds to reach healthy and sustainable numbers. The Delaware Bay's beaches are the "principal egg-lay grounds for the world's largest concentration of horseshoe crabs, and they attract the Western Hemisphere's second largest concentration of migrating shorebirds" according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (June 2005). The eggs of the horseshoe crab are critical to the survival of the red knot, a migratory bird that is listed under New Jersey's Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act, as well as under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The 2008 moratorium legislation (PL 2008, C.23:2B-21) states that the moratorium shall be in place until two conditions are met: (1) the recovery targets for the population of the red knot determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007 are met; and (2) a shorebird management plan demonstrates to the satisfaction of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection that horseshoe crab eggs are a more-than-adequate food supply for shorebirds, and that populations of both shorebirds and horseshoe crabs are viable. This plan is to be based on scientific evidence, and subjected to public comment and approval by qualified ecologists.
Solid, researched science presented by those who regularly work with these species in New Jersey has not shown that a sustainable recovery for these species has yet taken hold. And the populations of these animals may be further impacted by the decimation to many of our beaches in the wake of superstorm Sandy. Considering this, repeal of the moratorium is imprudent and ill-advised.
Since neither condition for lifting the moratorium has been met, and there is not adequate evidence that the recovery of sustainable horseshoe crab populations have been achieved, we respectfully submit that repeal of this moratorium at this time should not be considered as a viable alternative.