THE HORSESHOE CRAB IS A FUNDAMENTAL PART OF THE DELAWARE BAY'S ECOLOGY AND IS ESSENTIAL TO THE LIFE CYCLE OF MIGRATORY BIRDS. we rebuild the beaches so the crabs can reproduce and the birds have places to feed.
Horseshoe crabs are an ancient species dating back over 450 million years. Their yearly spawning ritual plays a major role in the local ecology, mainly because their eggs provide an invaluable food source to migratory shorebirds. Since the early 1990s, overharvesting has resulted in a 90% drop in the population, with major consequences for shorebirds and other species that rely on them. About half of the remaining Atlantic horseshoe crabs lay their eggs in the Delaware Bay, and the American Littoral Society is committed to protecting this key species by restoring the beaches that they use the most and providing scientific data on their population through spawning surveys and the largest horseshoe crab tagging program in the world.
This tagging and survey program grew out of the monitoring plan for the Society-led horseshoe crab spawning habitat restoration efforts along the Bay as a means to gauge the effectiveness of that work. Habitat restoration efforts became an imperative following Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Beaches along the Delaware Bay that were vital to successful crab spawning were left denuded of sand and covered with debris. This work began in 2013 and continues through today. It is our hope that through increasing the number of tagged crabs in the Bay we will gain a better understanding of crab movements through each season and year-over-year. This information will also help us identify possible beaches for future restoration projects.
Horseshoe crab tagging takes place in May and June on our restored beaches in the Delaware Bay- Dyers Cove, Fortescue, Thompsons, Moores, South Reeds, Cooks, Kimbles, and Pierces Point.