DEC: No more catching horseshoe crabs this year

Fishermen take note: The Department of Environmental Conservation announced the closure of the horseshoe crab fishery Saturday after the annual quota for the crustacean was exceeded.

“The quota was exceeded by about 20,000 crabs,” said long-time fisherman Pete Wenczel of Southold, who has long harvested the horseshoe crab as bait to catch conches, his main fishery of more than two decades.

Horseshoe crabs are most commonly harvested for bait or for their bright blue blood, which pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies use to ensure their drugs, vaccines and medical devices are free of bacterial contamination, according to

Because they have very little meat, the crustaceans are rarely eaten.

“There’s a daily trip limit of 200 crabs a day until half the quota is filled and then they go down to 100 crabs a day and then 30 crabs a day,” Mr. Wenzcel said of the regulation process. The fisherman has served for more than a decade on the advisory committee for the entity responsible for setting the regulation standard, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.  “It’s a little difficult to manage because you have to fill out reports every time you leave the dock to fish, but you also have to fill out and send out a report for every week that you don’t fish. I just want to stress how well and thoroughly regulated the process is.”

Mr. Wenzcel said though each state on the Atlantic coast is allocated a specific quota for harvesting the crabs based on how abundant they are in the area and New York’s quota number was set at 366,000 crabs per year by the regulating body, New York State voluntarily and “conservatively” cut it’s quota in half. The exceeded harvest occurred due to the “week or two lag between when the crabs were caught and when those numbers were ultimately recorded,” Mr. Wenzcel said.

A spokesperson for the DEC echoed Mr. Wenzcel’s statements and said because the annual quota for the year was exceeded in the spring at 170,897 crabs, the fishery will remain closed until next year.

According to a press release by the organization, harvest estimates will likely increase due to compliance monitoring, which is still in progress.  Those seeking additional information should contact the DEC Marine Resources Division at 631-444-0444.

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