Could biomedical research be putting horseshoe crab numbers at risk?

Portland, Maine – Environmental regulators collection studying horseshoe crabs are drained of some of his blood for biomedical use say they need to have a firm idea of ​​how many die as part of the process.

The crabs, which have been on earth for hundreds of millions of years and are older than the dinosaurs, are harvested because their blood contains coagulogen, a chemical used to make health insurance products are not contaminated by bacteria. The Marine Fisheries Commission of the Atlantic States, an interstate authority, voted this month to propose considering the number associated with medical harvest to determine the number of horseshoe crabs that can be harvested from the Delaware Bay deaths.

Medical harvest of horseshoe crabs is about 500,000 crabs per year. Crabs prehistoric appearance are usually taken to laboratories, drained of about a third of his blood and then released alive into the same water bodies where they were found, said a spokeswoman for the commission Tuesday .

The article continues after the announcement

is unclear how many crabs die in the process, but the estimate is about 15 percent, said Kirby Rootes-Murdy, a coordinator of the plan of fisheries management with the fisheries Commission. A firmer idea of ​​how many die is important because the crabs’ place in ecosystems, such as its role as a food source for birds endangered, Rootes-Murdy said.

“whether biomedical is collecting too much, excessive bleeding, that’s very kind of an open question right now,” he said. “There is uncertainty about whether it is really a significant impact or not.”

The crabs, which are shaped like helmets and have long tails, are also harvested by fishermen to use as bait in fishing, such as eels and horns. These activities are taken into account in the stock assessments horseshoe crab fisheries managers’, and are subject to quotas and other regulations. The value of commercial harvest of horseshoe crabs has grown from about $ 400,000 in 2004 to more than $ 1.8 million in 2014.

The crabs have existed for over 300 million years, according to the National Wildlife Federation. They have been harvested from Maine to Florida, and one of the largest populations in the world is in the area of ​​the Delaware Bay.

The impact of biomedical exploitation of horseshoe crabs is worrying for fishermen in the industry bait, said Rachel Dean, which offers tours of fishing operations in Maryland and sits on supervisory board crab horseshoe commission Atlantic States.

“Statistics on whether or not it is affected by the bleeding of crabs would be important for our industry know,” Dean said.

Some people in the medical industry gathering defend as critically important for products that benefit human health. Benji Swan, who has worked in the manufacture of products using the blood of the horseshoe crab, said at the committee meeting of the Atlantic States, on August 2, she feels that the industry is already clear about the impact of the harvest.

“Biomedical collection is separated from the bait harvest and should be because it is essential for human health,” he said. “Small mortality is not intentional and may be beyond our control.”

– Patrick Whittle

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