Shorebirds migrating from as far away as Chile on their migration north to the Canadian Arctic stop in Delaware Bay to feast on the eggs of horseshoe crabs. The New York Times describes Delaware Bay as a “globally important bird habitat,” but the overfishing of horseshoe crabs may change all that. Horseshoe crabs have been overfished for commercial fishery bait and harvested by the biomedical industry for their blood, which contains an extract that can detect certain types of bacteria. The decline in horseshoe crabs has resulted in a decline in horseshoe crab eggs, leaving some migratory birds without the sustenance required to reach their breeding grounds.
Conservation groups are asking Delaware, Maryland and Virginia to ban the harvesting of horseshoe crabs until both the crabs and the birds that feed on their eggs can recover. New Jersey, the other state that borders the Delaware Bay, imposed a horseshoe crab harvest moratorium in 2008.