THE COUNT: CONSERVING LONG ISLAND’S HORSESHOE CRABS
Horseshoe crabs are living fossils – and given their 450 million year existence on the planet, it’s no wonder they are considered a keystone species within their ecosystem. Horseshoe crabs provide vital resources to many – from shorebirds to humans. Every spring horseshoe crab spawning surveys are conducted up and down the Eastern Seaboard to assess populations and determine harvest quotas for commercial fishing and biomedical industries. Across Long Island, NY, the program is run by a network of researchers and citizen scientists who individually count and tag horseshoe crabs coming ashore to lay eggs. With the recent addition of the Red Knot shorebird to the federal endangered species list, it has never been more critical to monitor horseshoe crab populations and make sure the resource lasts well into the future.
Since the launch of the film, The Count has been used as a resource to educate both the public and students about the role horseshoe crabs play in local environments and why conservation efforts are critical. In Aug 2015, NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed two bills giving the NYS DEC extended authority to limit the harvesting of horseshoe crabs in New York waters. The bills were successful in large part due to the survey and public education programs created by the Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Network.