Cottrell: Threats against horseshoe crabs, red knots continuing


In spite of overwhelming physical evidence, there are people still in denial about climate change. In spite of reports from researchers from across the country addressing the threats to the American horseshoe crab, Delaware lawmakers are still in denial about those threats.

Instead, they rely solely on input from fishing industry lobbyists and echo their mantra: “There is no shortage of horseshoe crabs.”

It is a bitter irony that the Delaware General Assembly, which established an Ecological Extinction Task Force to address the alarming occurrence of the extinction of local plants and animals caused by misguided human activity, is still in denial regarding the threat of extinction facing the wild bird most closely associated with Delaware, the red knot. It is universally understood that the red knot’s precipitous decline in recent decades was caused by overexploitation of horseshoe crabs, a practice that is still ongoing in Delaware due to the General Assembly’s refusal to acknowledge the threats to both species. The red knot was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and an effort is presently underway to have the American horseshoe crab listed, as well. Atlantic coast partner states New Jersey, South Carolina and Connecticut have already prohibited the bait harvest of horseshoe crabs. Delaware is the glaring holdout.

Delaware now has a golden opportunity to move forward on moratorium legislation regarding horseshoe crab bait harvesting to begin the reversal of the disappearance of the red knot from its shores. Doing so will demonstrate to neighboring states that it is willing to be a responsible coastal partner. If “Ecological Extinction Task Force” Delaware refuses to comply, the federal listing of the horseshoe crab becomes more urgent to remedy our state’s negligence.

Steve Cottrell

President, Delaware Audubon

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