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Horseshoe Crab Tagging Program

Horseshoe crab eggs provide an important food source for migrating shorebirds. Horseshoe crabs are also important to medical research and pharmaceutical companies and are harvested by commercial fishermen to be used as bait in eel and conch fisheries. Coast-wide management of horseshoe crabs is essential to maintain healthy populations.

The status of horseshoe crab populations along the Atlantic coast is poorly understood, but crabs continue to be harvested. Although horseshoe crab eggs are suspected to be superabundant, a decline in the horseshoe crab population could severely impact migrating shorebird populations that depend on the eggs for survival.

This program provides data on distribution, movement, longevity, and mortality of horseshoe crabs. Data are used to inform management decisions about maintaining sustainable horseshoe crab populations. Proper management of horseshoe crab populations will benefit shorebirds, the biomedical industry and the commercial fishing industry.

The horseshoe crab tagging database is maintained by the Maryland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office and is a cooperative effort with state, federal, and non-governmental partners. Partners submit data from horseshoe crabs that they tag, and the general public, researchers, and commercial fishermen submit recapture data via a toll-free phone number.

You can help by reporting any horseshoe crabs caught or found with our tag by calling the toll-free number printed on the tag 1-888-LIMULUS (546-8587), or by clicking Horseshoe Crab Tag Form above to report online. A certificate of participation containing release information is awarded to those who report our horseshoe crab tags.

Last updated: February 18, 2016
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