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Horseshoe crab sightings on Long Island reach lowest numbers in 20 years

Vaccine Safety Horseshoe Crabs
Wayne Parry
/
AP
A horseshoe crab burrows into the sand on a beach

Horseshoe crab sightings on Long Island during their peak spawning season have reached its lowest level in 20 years, according to a survey from Molloy University.

Between May and August, the university’s Center for Environmental Research and Coastal Oceans Monitoring, spotted 188 crabs across 115 Long Island beaches. The survey last year found over 340. Their highest number recorded was around 2,900 back in 2011.

The large majority of the monitored locations showed no crabs or signs of spawning.

New York state has been implementing restrictions on horseshoe crab harvesting over the past several years. Fishermen usually use them as bait for catching whelk and eel.

A law signed by Governor Kathy Hochul this year gives the state even more power to restrict the number of crabs that can be harvested, which is currently a 150 daily limit with a permit.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said it “continues to take action” to ensure a “sustainable horseshoe crab population,” including closing harvests during peak spawning seasons.

Sabrina is host and producer of WSHU’s daily podcast After All Things. She also produces the climate podcast Higher Ground and other long-form news and music programs at the station. Sabrina spent two years as a WSHU fellow, working as a reporter and assisting with production of The Full Story.