tiny horseshoe crab

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

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.

HSC blood extraction

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.

We invite you to join this effort. Keep current and find more information on the SEMPBA Horseshoe Crab Advocates Facebook Page.

Survey Horseshoe Crabs on Long Beach, Plymouth 

Alissa HSC Survey

Volunteers in every state along the Eastern Seaboard survey horseshoe crabs May through June.  Here in Massachusetts, volunteer participation is essential in helping the Department of Marine Fisheries set harvesting limits. Volunteering with the SEMPBA horseshoe crab survey team, and joining us in our advocacy for tougher quota limits and habitat enhancement of these ancient creatures, increases the number of people who know enough to speak out on behalf of horseshoe crabs.

Sign up to survey spawning horseshoe crabs, and/or train to survey horseshoe crabs during the months of May and June 2022 on SignUpGenius here.


Horseshoe Crab Virtual Discussions

Presented by the Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Alliance

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.

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

International Horseshoe Crab Day: a celebration of the flagship species for coastal habitat conservation
Fri, 19 Jun 2020
The world’s horseshoe crab populations are imperiled, because of overharvesting for use as food, bait and biomedical testing, and because of habitat loss from coastal reclamation and development. Shoreline alterations that are engineered to protect beaches from erosion and sea level rise due to climate change also affect their spawning habitats.  Visit the IHCD website

If you would like to receive horseshoe crab information and invitations to horseshoe crab related forums and events, contact SEMPBA  at [email protected].