On March 17, the New Jersey Senate - by a 39-0 vote - passed a moratorium on horseshoe crab fishing in state waters. The bill goes to Gov. Jon Corzine, who is widely expected to sign it. More details here.
The action overturns the Feb. 11 decision of the state Marine Fisheries Council to lift an existing moratorium - the only one of its kind on the East Coast, and a measure conservationists consider critical for preventing the further decline of the rufa race of the red knot, which has plummeted from a population of more than 100,000 in the early 1990s to near-extinction today. Similar declines are now beginning to manifest themselves among ruddy turnstones and semipalmated sandpipers, two other species that depend on the crabs' eggs during their spring migration to the Arctic.
Should we all just congratulate the N.J. legislature (and ourselves, since conservationists from around the country lobbied hard for this bill) and go back to birding? Hardly. The existing annual crab quota, set by the federal Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, is too high, and the commission should again consider a region-wide harvest moratorium, thus superceding a Delaware state court ruling last year striking down a state moratorium there.
The best source for information on the red knot/crab situation remains New Jersey Audubon.