Local Horseshow Crab Team Seeks Volunteers

WEST OCEAN CITY – The Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) is seeking volunteers for its new Stranded Spawning Horseshoe Crab Recovery Team.

As horseshoe crabs begin to spawn in the bays, the local organization is gearing up for its new Stranded Spawning Horseshoe Crab Recovery Team, which recruits volunteers to go out and help rescue stranded horseshoe crabs.

“The Maryland coastal bays is a hotspot for horseshoe crab spawning and as a result the Maryland Coastal Bays Program conducts annual surveys to assess how the population is doing,” a statement on MCBP’s website reads. “Unfortunately, there are some areas in the coastal bays that have    obstacles that the horseshoe crabs get stranded on while spawning. These strandings lead to mass causalities which is why MCBP is establishing a team of dedicated volunteers to go out to these locations and help rescue stranded horseshoe crabs.”

Horseshoe crabs are invertebrates that have remained anatomically the same for millions of years, MCBP reports, and are beneficial to the bays systems as their eggs are a vital food source for birds, fish, and other animals.

This species has also become a valuable resource, particularly for medicinal purposes, MCBP says. A protein found in the horseshoe crab’s blue blood – Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL) – is used by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to test injectable drugs for the presence of endotoxins, bacterial substances that can cause fevers and even be fatal to humans.

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Every year, during the late spring and early summer high tides, tens of thousands of horseshoe crabs gather on the beach to spawn. However, MCBP says horseshoe crabs are at risk when they do so, as many become stranded either in rocks or by being flipped onto their backs. Often, they are not able to right themselves.

To that end, the organization is seeking volunteers to join its Recovery Team.

Those interested in helping the horseshoe crabs are encouraged to sign up for training, which will include a short background on MCBP, horseshoe crabs and their ecological importance, how to fill out a data sheet, and answers to questions. For more information, contact Carly Toulan at ctoulan@mdcoastalbays.org.

The Maryland Coastal Bays Program also assists the Maryland Department of Natural Resources each year in conducting annual horseshoe crab surveys to measuring spawning abundance in the coastal bays. The survey has existed since 2002 and provides data used in fisheries management. Surveys start in late May and continue through early July. Those interested in volunteering are also asked to contact Carly Toulan.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.