Fishing for Horseshoe Crabs in West Haven
The horseshoe crab mating season and fishing season has begun, which raises all kinds of issues about the conservation of marine life, the conservation of birds (particularly red knots, which rely on horseshoe crab eggs for food) and the protection of commercial fisheries, as I wrote about here. Last night I got an e-mail about horseshoe crabs from someone I don't know. She told me that last Sunday evening she was on the beach in
They filled up an entire pickup truck with horseshoe crabs. It was filled so high, anyone walking by could see the pile emerging from the back of the truck. I felt helpless and it makes me so sad because they have ALL been taken out of the water. If you go down there, you will not find ONE horseshoe crab. I am in the process of trying to understand why were they allowed to do this.
I called the DEP on Sunday, and I also left a message today with a woman there with hopes that she can explain to me why was it ok to do that.
When I go down the beach, and the tide is in, I like to look out for any horseshoe crab that has been turned over on its back, and then flip it back over. As I got out of my car, I saw a little girl looking at one that was flipped. I walked over to it, turned it back over and started talking to the girl about horseshoe crabs. A few minutes later, these 2 kids came onto the beach and started grabbing ALL of the attached pairs out of the water and just throwing them onto the sand (so you can see their poor legs kicking). I asked one of them what was he going to do with them and he said that they use them as bait. The little girl had her whole family come over as we watched helpless and confused [about] what to do. They were then throwing them in coolers and then dumping them into the back of a pickup truck. I was so upset, and didn't know what I had the right to do.
I went up to a cop and told him of the situation and referred me to the DEP. I called the DEP's emergency line and explained the situation to a gentlemen. I waited almost an hour and no one showed up. My sister's friend called the DEP again for me, and this time was told that as of 6 p.m. it was fishing season. On Monday night, they were down there again. The older man, who later showed up with the 2 boys on Sunday, actually had one of those flashlights that attached around his forehead as he searched into the tide. I couldn't stay.
After I wrote about horseshoe crabs 11 days ago I received a rather ungracious, mean-spirited and irrational e-mail from a fellow who apparently thinks he's a good advocate for horseshoe crab protection. On his website, which I'm not going to link to, he reprints a letter that Eric Smith, the head of the DEP's marine fisheries division, wrote to him, explaining how Connecticut and other states on the Atlantic are trying to balance horseshoe crab protection with horseshoe crab fishing. Here's what Eric said:
Marine fisheries management is part resource protection and part resource use. No one should be surprised at this observation. It has always been so. On the east coast, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is responsible for the preparation of interstate fishery management plans to rebuild or sustain resources and fisheries.
Then, a fisherman (or dealer) came up with an alternative. He proposed that the Commission delay the opening of the season until after red knots had left the beaches to continue on their northward migration. He also proposed preventing the taking of female horseshoe crabs at any time.
This plan, to me, did two things: it maximized the opportunity for “eggs on the beach” at the time the red knot was on
To me, that was a reasoned solution to a seemingly intractable problem. It protected an important resource during a time and in a way that maximized the opportunity for the red knot to benefit, and it preserved some measure of a regulated horseshoe crab fishery, for the benefits it provides.
It’s a challenge to try to satisfy the interests of people with disparate views. The fact that a member of the fishing public came up with the
Regarding your statement about the horseshoe crab fishery in
As for how, where and when people can fish for horseshoe crabs, here's what the state rules say. To me they appear to be fairly restrictive, but I have no idea whether they are working well or not:
In order to engage in the horseshoe crab hand-harvest fishery, a person must possess both:
1. a valid commercial license that allows the hand-harvest of horseshoe crabs (either a Commercial Finfish License or a Commercial Horseshoe Crab Hand Harvest License), and
2. a Horseshoe Crab Hand-Harvest Endorsement Letter bearing the license holder’s name.
Both of these items must be immediately available for inspection by law enforcement officers when engaged in the hand-harvest of horseshoe crabs.
Horseshoe Crab Hand-Harvest Endorsement Letters will be issued annually only to fishermen who possessed a commercial license that allowed the hand harvest of horseshoe crabs during the horseshoe crab open season in at least one year from 1999 through 2006, and who reported in their Commercial Fisheries Catch Logbooks the hand-harvest and landings of horseshoe crabs during at least one of those open seasons....
Commercial Fishery Season:
No person shall harvest horseshoe crabs from the waters of this state or, regardless of where such animals are taken, possess live horseshoe crabs on the waters of this state or on any parcel of land, structure, or portion of a roadway abutting tidal waters of this state from July 8 of any year through May 21 of the next year, inclusive. During the open period from May 22 through July 7, inclusive, no person shall take horseshoe crabs on the waters or shores of this state or on any parcel of land, structure, or portion of a roadway abutting tidal waters of this state from 06:00 pm on any Friday through 06:00 pm on the following Sunday, inclusive (weekend closure).
No person shall engage in the hand-harvest of horseshoe crabs from the following areas:
(2) the region known as Sandy Point in West Haven from the West Haven boat ramp on Beach Street south to, and clockwise around said point, including the breakwater, tidal flats and embayment and southeastern facing barrier beach to the groin adjacent to the intersection of Beach Street and Morse Avenue; and
(3) the region known as Milford Point in
In the hand-harvest fishery, the limit is 500 crabs per license holder per 24-hour period that begins at 12:00 noon.
Restrictions on Tools:
The use of any tool, including, but not limited to, nets, rakes, tongs, hooks, poles, gaffs or spears to take horseshoe crabs is prohibited. However, the license holder may wear gloves.
Any person that does not hold both a commercial license to take horseshoe crabs by hand and a Horseshoe Crab Hand-Harvest Endorsement Letter is prohibited from entering the water to assist a person so licensed and endorsed. Such unlicensed or unendorsed persons are not prohibited from carrying crabs that have been placed on the beach by the license holder to a storage container or vehicle or taking crabs from a license holder for storage while remaining in a boat.
Labels: horseshoe crabs