Local fishermen came out to Brookhaven Town Hall last Thursday to let officials know they oppose Supervisor Ed Romaine’s push to limit horseshoe crab harvesting.
Earlier that week, Romaine (R) announced he and the town board would consider urging the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which regulates the industry, to ban horseshoe crab harvesting within 500 feet of town-owned property in an effort to protect the crab population and allow them a safe place to mate.
Romaine moved to table the idea after hearing the baymen’s concerns.
The 450-million-year-old species are used for bait and in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries, as their blue blood is used to detect bacterial contamination in products. At a May 19 press conference, officials said if the crab population shrinks, other species — like those that eat the crabs’ eggs — could be negatively affected.
Stony Brook’s West Meadow Beach and Mount Sinai Harbor already have harvesting plans in place, and a ban would broaden the restriction area.
However, the fishermen said the restriction was not based on any facts and the horseshoe crab population is not declining. In addition, they said further regulation would affect their livelihoods.
Ron Bellucci Jr., of Sound Beach, said horseshoe crab harvesting is a vital part of his income. He added that he knows the crabs are important to the larger ecosystem, which he is a part of as well.
“I’m just a man, but I’m a vital part of the food chain and I think I’m at the top,” he said.
According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a partnership between East Coast states to protect fisheries, a 2013 assessment of the horsecrab population showed a decrease in the New York and New England regions, while crabs have increased in the southern states — North Carolina through Florida — and remained stable from New Jersey through coastal Virginia.
David Klopfenstein, of the North Shore Baymen’s Association, urged the board to speak with the DEC before supporting a ban. He said there was a lot of misinformation regarding a very complex issue that is already being controlled.
“It’s also the most well-managed fisheries that we have up and down the East Coast,” he said.
The DEC did not immediately comment on the issue.