The horseshoe crab was plentiful when I was a child at Priscilla Beach in the fifties. There are still some when my children were young, late sixties, early seventies. I don’t remember when I last saw one.—Mary Mullaney

Proposal to State List Horseshoe Crabs in Massachusetts 

SEMPBA volunteers understand that horseshoe crabs used to spawn in Massachusetts in numbers so great that the state paid bounties to rid beaches of them. Today, you feel fortunate even to see just one. Twenty years of management has failed to restore horseshoe crab populations—and maintaining just enough horseshoe crabs for fishermen and biomedical labs falls short of the state's mandate to restore horseshoe crab population in numbers that can support shorebirds and the other species that depend on them for food.

That is why SEMPBA submitted a proposal to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) to state list the American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) as a Special Concern Species.




Want to help? What you need to know.

The NHESP Advisory Committee Zoom Webinar

Thursday, September 14, 2023, at 1:30 p.m.

The NHESP Advisory Committee will discuss proposals for changes for the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) List. Our proposal to list horseshoe crabs as a Special Concern Species is among those species under discussion. The public invited to join the webinar.

Public Link to Join the Webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82118005088?pwd=cVdTZVl2NXVxSURqZndMWDQxTG8vdz09 Passcode: zEmaq4.

Public Phone to Join the Webinar:  +1-929-205-6099 US (New York) (data or phone charges may apply) .  Webinar ID: 821 1800 5088 Passcode: 076362

NHESP Advisory Committee Agenda

  • Minutes of the July Meeting
  • Chair’s Comments – Mark Mello
  • Board Member’s Comments – Matthew Sisk
  • NHESP & Assistant Director’s Report – Eve Schlüter
  • Member’s & Associate Member’s Comments
  • Discussion and Member Vote on MESA List Proposals (Plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates.*

*Species will be reviewed as time permits. Remaining species will be discussed and voted on at the October meeting.


Draft Horseshoe Crab Conservation Plan

Horseshoe Crab Advocates Strategic Plan for Conserving Massachusetts' Horseshoe Crabs

View Plan


Screenshot 2023-09-07 at 11.32.35 PM

Why we need a plan. Horseshoe Crab Capture in Duxbury, video by Raymond MacDonald. View Video.

HSC blood extraction

Horseshoe Crabs and Human Health

Horseshoe Crabs evolved over 350 million years, millions of years before dinosaurs existed. Today, the Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) is classified as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN. The decrease in horseshoe crabs affects migrating shorebird species, such as the Red Knot, that depend on horseshoe crab eggs for food during migration.

Horseshoe Crabs are also widely used in the biomedical industry because their blue blood contains a protein called Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL), which is used by pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers to test their products for the presence of bacteria.

Recently, the U.S. Pharmacopeia drafted regulations that, if approved, will allow pharmaceutical companies to develop an alternative to horseshoe crab blood.

The proposal standards from the United States Pharmacopeia are a first step toward easing the transition for pharmaceutical companies away from products that are derived from horseshoe crab blood.

More information

Expert Committee Proposes Chapter for Endotoxin Testing Using Non-Animal Derived Reagents, August, 22, 2023. The proposed addition of Chapter <86> to the US Pharmacopeia is in keeping with USP’s commitment to expanding the use of animal-free methods and materials. The official open comment period will run from Nov. 1, 2023, through Jan. 31, 2024.

I am BIO Podcast | BIO
Podcast with Eli Lilly and Roche-Genentech discussing the importance and advantages of using synthetic alternatives to assays derived from horseshoe crab blood.



Who We Are

SEMPBA volunteers want to better understand horseshoe crabs; their critical role in human health and in the global ecosystem—particularly in their evolutionary ability to sustain migrating shorebirds on long intercontinental migrations. That is why SEMPBA volunteers participate in the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries Spawning Horseshoe Crab Survey program, providing data to the Commonwealth help set limits on their "take" and why we created a Facebook page to help focus advocacy efforts where they may do the most to ensure that these ancient creatures rebound and flourish as they have for millennia.

Keep current and find more information on the SEMPBA Horseshoe Crab Advocates Facebook Page. 

We invite you to join in this effort with us. visit our website: www.horseshoecrabs.org.



Horseshoe Crab Survey Protocol: A Guide to the One-Egg Test Transect-Based Horseshoe Crab Surface Egg Presence/Absence Sampling

Joe Smith and Susan Linder, Wildlife Restoration Partnerships, June 2023

This protocol was developed to provide a simplified methodology for measuring horseshoe crab surface egg abundance. While other surface egg studies include counting the actual number of surface eggs within each sample, in this  study, the data being recorded is solely the presence or absence of surface eggs.

Training available. Contact Sharl at [email protected] for more information.


The Horseshoe Crab: Against All Odds

Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Alliance (SEMPBA) invites artists to participate in the art exhibition "The Horseshoe Crab: Against All Odds."  The exhibition will feature works in a variety of media including fine art, photography, printmaking, glass, ceramics, textile, sculpture, jewelry, etc.  Artists are encouraged to submit works that explore the beauty of these ancient creatures, their ecological importance, and the threats they face.

Selected works will be exhibited at the Plymouth Center for the Arts, 11 North Street, Plymouth, Massachusetts, June 12 through July 7, 2024.

Images may be included in an Online art exhibition as well, with the artist's permission.

Deadline for submission is February 15, through April 15, 2024. More information at the Against All Odds website.

Download the 'Call for Artists'

Submit Artwork Online

Download Mail-in Art Submission

Replay Horseshoe Crab Virtual Discussions 

The Economic and Ecological Role of the Horseshoe Crab and How You Can Help with its Conservationa discussion with Dr. Jennifer Mattei, Professor of Biology, Sacred Heart University, and horseshoe crab advocates in Massachusetts. April 28, 2022.View the video recording  here.

We are sad to note that Dr. Mattei passed away on December 9, 2022. Sacred Heart University has set up a scholarship fund in her honor. Donations to The Jennifer H. Mattei Scholarship for Undergraduate Research accepted here.


Dr. Jennifer H. Mattei

450 Million Years and Vulnerable—Horseshoe Crabs in Massachusetts; A Zoom video discussion from three perspectives with three experts whose lives revolve around Horseshoe Crabs: Brett Hoffmeister, LAL Manufacturing Manager, Associates of Cape Cod; Derek Perry, Invertebrate Fisheries Project, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries; and Deborah Cramer, Author of The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey (Yale University Press). February 5, 2022. View the video recording here.