Mispillion Harbor beach restoration benefits horseshoe crabs, birds
Work to restore a rock wall at Mispillion Harbor is underway with help from National Wildlife Foundation funds. The goal is to protect birds migrating through the Delaware Bay and horseshoe crabs spawning nearby.
Red Knots have recently been labeled as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and one of their food sources is horseshoe crab eggs.
That’s why Jeremey Ashe, the project restoration manager, is trying to protect the horseshoe crab population. If there are more horseshoe crabs, there is more food for Red Knots.
"If we lose its habitat, it will definitely have a major impact on population levels for that species of Red Knot, so that’s kind of a driver from a habitat species perspective for doing this project," Ashe said.
Components of the restoration project at Mispillion Harbor include adding stone and sand to an existing rock wall, giving it more height and stability. Raising the rock wall will help protect the largest population of horseshoe crabs spawning along the Delaware Bay.
"There’s plenty of other places where horseshoe crabs can spawn, but this is a unique location in that it’s the only place within Delaware Bay with a harbor protected by a stone wall that provides beach habitat for horseshoe crabs," Ashe said.
He added the fact that the area is isolated allows horseshoe crabs to continue to spawn even when storms occur in the bay.
The project uses about $4.5 million in funds and will restore the landscape to what it was in the 1980s, before a winter storm in 1992 eroded portions of beach.
Ashe said project officials plan to complete it before horseshoe crabs begin spawning in April.