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Horseshoe Crabs and Red Knot Protections

In 2005, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network led the creation and submission of a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list the red knot (Caladris canutus rufa) as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.  DRN continued to monitor horseshoe crab populations and advocate for stronger protections of the red knot and the horseshoe crabs of the Delaware Bay.  The USFWS finally, on September 30, 2013, took steps to list the Red Knot as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in response to our 2005 petition.  Delaware Riverkeeper Network continued to push for “Endangered” listing through the public comment process that ended June 2014 to urge for elevation of protections.   A final USFWS listing rule of “Threatened” for the red knot was published December 11, 2014, with an effective date of January 12, 2015, triggering the full Section 7 consultation requirements of the Endangered Species Act and finally realizing the long hard fought process of federal listing to help protect this beautiful migratory shorebird still holding on but on the brink of extinction.   

For decades, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network along with our colleagues from around the region, country and world have struggled to protect the horseshoe crabs of Delaware Bay from their continuing decline and to protect the shorebirds dependent upon them from going extinct as a result of that decline. In 2010 we had a huge success.  New Jersey passed a moratorium on the harvest of horseshoe crabs for bait harvest along New Jersey Delaware Bay beaches until such time as the birds dependent upon them could be deemed to have recovered.  

Both of these protections have led to greater oversight and more tools available to help protect the red knot and horseshoe crabs from emerging and existing threats that continue for these imperiled Delaware Bay species that wildlife enthusiasts around the world come to witness during the annual horseshoe crab season and shorebird migration along the Delaware Bay.