Stop Overharvesting Horseshoe Crabs

horseshoe crab by Breese Greg

Target: Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Widlife Service

Goal: Create federal plan to stop the overharvesting of horseshoe crabs.

Though not imperiled, horseshoe crabs are subject to overfishing in many areas and because their existence is so crucial to their ecosystems, this problem can have far-reaching effects. Threats to horseshoe crab habitat are also a concern as human impacts have made it difficult for these animals to nest in certain places. Though some states have created bans or restrictions on horseshoe crab harvesting, some states have no regulations on the practice at all.

Horseshoe crabs are well known for their unique appearance and for being one of the most ancient species on Earth at over 445 million years old. Their status as a crucial keystone species for multiple ecosystems along the eastern seaboard is less commonly known. Keystone species are those that, when impacted, tend to create a ripple effect across the ecosystem. As a keystone species, horseshoe crabs serve as a pivotal food source for many other animals, including several endangered species who depend on them for survival.

Federal restrictions on harvesting of horseshoe crabs could potentially be a boon to the species. Ask that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service consider restricting this practice at a federal level. Federal protections for horseshoe crabs might save the species from further depletion and, in turn, save other endangered species from damage.


Dear Director Ashe,

The horseshoe crab, though not yet endangered, is currently seeing its numbers drop in many areas. This population decrease is a direct result of overharvesting. Because of the horseshoe crab’s status as a keystone species, this problem can potentially have devastating and far-reaching effects.

We, the undersigned, are afraid of a future in which horseshoe crabs are increasingly overharvested and imperiled. We do not want the horseshoe crab to become threatened or endangered, and believe that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in a unique position to advocate against this possibility.

Endangerment of the horseshoe crab could have harmful impacts on multiple other species, some of them already endangered, who rely on the horseshoe crab as a food source. We ask that you create and enforce federal limits on horseshoe crab harvesting in order to protect the fragile ecosystems of the eastern seaboard.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Greg Breese

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  1. Gillian Miller says:

    Why are horseshoe crabs important?
    Horseshoe crabs are an important part of the ecology of coastal communities. During the nesting season, especially in the mid-Atlantic States, horseshoe crab eggs become the major food source for migrating birds. Over 50 percent of the diet of many shorebird species consists of horseshoe crab eggs. Many bird species in Florida have been observed feeding on horseshoe crab eggs. In addition, many fish species rely on horseshoe crab eggs for food.

    Horseshoe crabs are extremely important to the biomedical industry because their unique, copper-based blue blood contains a substance called Limulus amebocyte lysate. The substance, which coagulates in the presence of small amounts of bacterial toxins, is used to test for sterility of medical equipment and virtually all intravenous drugs. Research on the compound eyes of horseshoe crabs has led to a better understanding of human vision. The marine life fishery collects live horseshoe crabs for resale as aquarium, research, or educational specimens, and the American eel and whelk fisheries use horseshoe crabs extensively as bait along many parts of the Atlantic coast.

  2. Lisa Allred Lisa Zarafonetis says:

    Signed & Shared. ?

  3. KatWrangler says:

    Figures – these creatures ahve been around for 445 million years. And then we come along …

  4. Dear fish and wildlife service please consider taking a stand against over
    harvesting the horse shoe crabs. They are very important to the environment
    and to other species. Please list them as endangered.

  5. We shouldn’t be killing them at all…..

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