Horseshoe Crab Management
Prior to the 1990’s, horseshoe crabs were not a managed species. In fact, many people considered them a nuisance species. During the 1990’s, Maryland’s harvest of horseshoe crabs steadily increased. The increase in harvest pressure was primarily the result of the use of horseshoe crabs as bait for the commercial eel, whelk/conch, and catfish fisheries. Commercial fisherman use several types of gear to land horseshoe crabs including trawl nets, pound nets, gill nets and fyke nets.
In 1994, the Chesapeake Bay program adopted a Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coast Horseshoe Crab Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Several objectives of this plan included protection of the ecological role of horseshoe crabs, development of a spawning stock monitoring program, improvement of commercial catch data, and delineation of spawning beaches and areas that are used by migrating shorebirds.
Maryland continued to refine its horseshoe crab management actions over the next few years. In 1996, Maryland voluntarily enacted harvest restrictions to protect spawning horseshoe crabs and required commercial watermen to report their catch.
Currently, trawling for horseshoe crabs occurs in the Chesapeake Bay, coastal bays, and within 1 mile of the Atlantic coast. However, offshore trawling (outside of 1 mile) accounts for more than 95% of Maryland's annual harvest of horseshoe crabs. Gill nets, fyke and pound nets, and fish pots account for the remainder. The total annual harvest for the commercial fishery is limited to 170,653 horseshoe crabs. To participate in the fishery, a person must have a horseshoe crab catch landing permit in Maryland. The fishery season for horseshoe crabs is open from June 8 to November 30 with the majority of the harvest occurring in the spring and fall as horseshoe crabs migrate to and from inshore spawning areas. In Maryland waters, no person is allowed to harvest horseshoe crabs from December 1 to June 7. There is no recreational fishery permitted.
Maryland Horseshoe Crab Regulations (Commercial)
Yearly state quota: 170, 653 horseshoe crabs
|December 1 through June 7||No harvest or landings for any person|
|June 8-July 12||No catch or landings in Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries, or within 1 mile of the Atlantic coast or its coastal bays.
May catch/land horseshoe crabs outside 1 mile of Atlantic coast Monday thru Friday as follows: Permittee will be limited to 100 horseshoe crabs in the ratio of 2 males for every female. If no permit, 25 per day.
|July 13 thru Nov. 30||Monday thru Friday only, Maryland tidal waters, take limited to individual quota on permit. If no permit, 25 per day. Quota for each permit is based on that individuals reported landings in 1996.||Season closed when state quota is reached.|
or use the glossary.
Raising Horseshoe Crabs in the Classroom
- Stacy Epperson
Aquatic Resource Education Dept
Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-2
Annapolis, MD 21401