National Wildlife Federation Calls for Increased Horseshoe Crab Protections

RESTON, Va. – The National Wildlife Federation and its 53 state and territorial affiliates called for increased protection for horseshoe crab along with a transition to a synthetic alternative to horseshoe crab blood for medical testing. The resolution underscores how horseshoe crabs are critical to coastal ecosystems in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, where they support threatened and endangered shorebird and fish species.  In recent years, horseshoe crab populations have plummeted due to fishing for bait and use of horseshoe crab blood for biomedical testing and manufacturing.

“Almost every person who has gone to beach on the East and Gulf Coasts has a fantastic memory of horseshoe crabs -- this amazing creature that date back to the age of dinosaurs -- but those experiences are in jeopardy due to overharvest and climate change,” said Curtis Fisher, regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation's Northeast Regional Center. “With this resolution, the National Wildlife Federation and 53 allied wildlife and environmental organizations made clear that we will fight to save horseshoe crabs. Saving these ancient creatures will also help protect the coastal eco-system, and endangered and threatened species that depend upon the horseshoe eggs as a critical food source.”

The resolution calls on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to put into place additional protections for the species including a coast-wide male-only harvest of horseshoe crabs, and to put quotas and best management practices into place to reduce mortality impacts from biomedical harvest, along with the adoption of the synthetic alternative.

“Horseshoe crabs fuel entire ecosystems along the Atlantic coast, with long-distance migratory shorebirds and other coastal species dependent on the animal for survival,” said David Mizrahi, vice president of research and monitoring at New Jersey Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation’s New Jersey affiliate that introduced the resolution. “Management practices that protect this species will protect ecosystems, along with reducing the impact of biomedical research. We look forward to working with state agencies to ensure that this species that has protected humans can be protected in turn.” 

A component of horseshoe crab blood is used to test for bacterial toxins in during production of vaccines and other intravenous drugs and treatments, severely depleting populations in coastal ecosystems. However, a synthetic alternative to horseshoe crab blood has already deemed safe and equivalent by the European Directorate for Quality of Medicines and has been used in the development of various pharmaceutical products and processes, and by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly in the approval of three widely marketed drugs and a Covid-19 antibody test.

“With the horseshoe crab now under threat of extinction, the development of a safe and sustainable synthetic chemical provides an alternative that allows for medical innovation while protecting this iconic species.” added Fisher.


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