Horseshoe crab harvesting officially banned in Connecticut

A horseshoe crab spotted at Harveys Beach in Old Saybrook.
A horseshoe crab spotted at Harveys Beach in Old Saybrook.(WFSB)
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 10:03 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2023 at 12:48 PM EDT
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STRATFORD, CT (WFSB) - A bill that bans the harvesting of horseshoe crabs in Connecticut was signed into law on Wednesday.

Gov. Ned Lamont participated in a bill signing ceremony at 11 a.m. at Short Beach in Stratford.

The legislation implemented a ban on harvesting the horseshoe crabs in Connecticut waters.

It was sought by advocates who said that the population of horseshoe crabs in Long Island Sound has plummeted in recent years and new restrictions were needed to help bolster the species so it does not get harvested into extinction.

The Connecticut Audubon Society also argued that harvesting impacted migratory birds that rely on horseshoe crab eggs for food.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, horseshoe crabs are typically harvested as bait for eel and conch fisheries. Their blue blood is also used by pharmaceutical companies to test the sterility of vaccines, drugs, prosthetics, and other medical devices.

Wednesday, the governor was joined at the ceremony by State Representative Joe Gresko, other state and local officials, and advocates.

“The number of horseshoe crabs in Long Island Sound and throughout the Atlantic Coast has been severely depleted in recent years, raising concerns that this ancient species that has been around longer than the dinosaurs could be driven into extinction from overharvesting,” Lamont said. “This law says that we need to take a break and let this species regenerate and get back to a state of good health. I strongly urge our neighboring states to join this growing coalition and enact similar laws to protect the population in their waters.”

Although existing state regulations and commercial fisheries partners have been working to reduce the impact on horseshoe crabs, the total ban was enacted out of an abundance of concern for the recovery of the population. With the signing, Connecticut followed several other states that have recently adopted similar bans in response to the population decline, including Delaware, New Jersey, and South Carolina.

“I am proud to have spearheaded the successful passage of this crucial bill,” Gresko said. “By implementing a ban on the harvesting of horseshoe crabs from Connecticut waters, we are not only safeguarding these prehistoric creatures, but also ensuring the preservation of our marine ecosystems. This step forward will benefit current and future generations.”

Lamont said the law enables the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to issue permits authorizing the limited harvesting of horseshoe crabs only for scientific and educational purposes if it is determined that doing so will not harm the overall horseshoe crab population.

It takes effect on Oct. 1, 2023.