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The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of
Fish and Wildlife is encouraging the general public to assist in
identifying horseshoe crab spawning habitat throughout the state this
spring. Collecting information on potential spawning habitat is the
result of an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Fishery
Management Plan for Horseshoe Crabs adopted in 1998 and is required of
all coastal states from Maine to Florida.

While many Delaware Bay beaches and some Atlantic coastal bay beaches
are known to support horseshoe crab spawning from year to year, the
Division would appreciate current, personal observations from
individuals on current sites of spawning activity.

The horseshoe crab spawning season in the mid-Atlantic area usually
occurs during May and June when large numbers of horseshoe crabs move
onto sandy beaches to mate and lay eggs. Spawning habitat generally
includes sandy beach areas within bays and coves that are protected from
significant wave action. Male and female horseshoe crabs are coupled
during mating and egg laying.

During the May and June horseshoe crab spawning season, migratory
shorebirds, especially the red knot, are likely to be present on the
beaches feeding on horseshoe crab eggs to replenish their body weight
and continue the migration to their arctic breeding grounds. Under no
circumstances should survey participants disturb any feeding shorebirds
while making their horseshoe crab spawning observations. This is a
critical feeding period for migratory shorebirds, especially on the
Delaware Bay beaches.

This spring, persons interested in reporting horseshoe crab spawning
activity should be alert to the dates of new and full moons: May 8 - new
moon, May 23 - full moon, June 6 - new moon and June 22 - full moon. For
a few days before to a few days after each of these four dates,
horseshoe crab spawning activity is likely to be at its peak intensity.


Individuals may report their observations on horseshoe crab spawning
activity by visiting the Division's Web site and accessing the
"Horseshoe Crab Spawning Habitat Identification Form," or by calling the
toll free phone number 1-866-NJ-CATCH (1-866-652-2824). When calling, be
sure to leave your name and telephone number so that someone can contact
you to record your information.

All information received over the next few months will be analyzed,
summarized, mapped and reported to the ASMFC and state regulatory
agencies so that this critical habitat may be protected.
 
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