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Delaware beaches crawling with horseshoe crabs


Delaware scientists are seeing more Atlantic Horseshoe Crabs on the state’s beaches than they’ve seen in the past 15 years.

Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection estimates 20 million horseshoe crabs are laying and fertilizing eggs on the state’s protected beaches as they do each year in May and June.

This annual spawning ritual is important for birds migrating from South America to their Arctic breeding grounds, according to Stewart Michels, a fisheries scientist with the state of Delaware.  

“What happens is these migratory shorebirds time their migration such that they arrive in Delaware Bay when this phenomenon is occurring and they feed on these surplus eggs,” he said.

If horseshoe crab populations decline it can have devastating effects on these migrating birds.

Delaware implemented policies to protect the crabs from overharvesting in the late 1990’s, according to Michels. This year’s massive influx could be evidence these protections are working,

Delaware has more spawning horseshoe crabs than anywhere else in the world.

You can witness these crabs spawning at high tide from Pickering Beach to Slaughter Beach.

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