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Lewes, Delaware
Jim's Towing Service
June 7, 1996     Cape Gazette
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June 7, 1996
 

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Horseshoe crabs an increasin00 Jv rare "diamond in the rough" Biologists report that horseshoe crab numbers continue to be down. June 1 was considered the height of the horseshoe crab mat- ing season and the crabs can be seen coming ashore often in cou- ples of a large female and smaller male. The crabs often get caught acci- dentally by fishermen and if they die during spawning, the smell can be truly spectacular. But wildlife officials say the crabs, long considered a pest, are really a treasure in armor nearly as old as time itself. The crabs are believed to be nearly unchanged for cons. And while homely and smelly, they have a number of benefits. Horse- Mike Short A pair of horseshoe crabs in clam shells along the canal. OUTDOORS shoe crab eggs fuel millions of shorebirds who stop along Delaware Bay on their spring mi- grations. Shorebirds, some of them rare and many of them refu- eling for a trip from the southern hemisphere to the icy Arctic, eat the eggs. Those horseshoe crab eggs feed the ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, semi-palmated sandpipers and nearly 30 other species on their long migrations. That has made the Delaware estuary a stop of global importance for shorebirds. There are also benefits to hu- mans, namely the use of the crab's blood for medical research. The blood is used to test for gram neg- ative bacteria, the source of many illnesses. Every intravenous drug must be tested for purity using the blood of the horseshoe crab, ac- cording to Bill Hall, a crab expert with the University of Delaware Sea Grant Marine Advisory Ser- vice. The crabs are also very useful for eye research, all of which TIDES Indian River Date Inlet 6/11 6/12 6/13 6/14 Rehoboth Beach Roosevelt Inlet Oak Orchard makes the crabs a unique re- source. The problem may be that the crabs are too popular. Conch and eel fishermen har- vest the crabs for use as bait and can sometimes get prices as high as $1 for a single female crab. Medical research bleeds the crabs, although they are required by law to release the crabs alive and the survival rate may be more than 90 percent, according to Hall. For whatever reason, crab popu- lations continue to be on a down- turn. Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, the di- rector of Delaware's non-game and endangered species section, said that shorebird numbers have been off so far this year. She was reluctant to say the cause was a decline in horseshoe crabs, noting that the unusually cold winter has delayed many things this year and that shorebird migration may be one of them. "It has been a really odd year," she said. In fact, virtually the only wildlife which has kept on sched- ule are bald eagles, who in some cases actually nested early this year. The number of red knots has been especially low. "We just are not seeing the number of red knots," she said. "My gut feeling is (shorebird numbers) are not as high." She said she wants to see what kind of shorebird numbers show up in the next few days, but that she is uncertain what to expect. "It is [what we have seen so far] cer- tainly not what we were expect- ing." Whatever may or may not have happened to the shorebirds, crab numbers are still disappointing. There has been a "significant" Continued on page 66 Trophy striper Matt Hall of Lewes caught this lunker striped bass on Sunday, June 3 while surf fishing on the beach at Wachapreague, Virginia on the lower Eastern Shore. "We caught four this size," said Matt, "and had no idea they were even there. We were just fishing for whatev- er came by. m The fish is in the 25 pounds plum category. CAPE GAZETI, Friday, June 7. June 13, 1996.65 BRIGHT ELECTRICAL IDEAS. I 11116txxb" SALE ENDS JUNE 23