From 1995-1999, Maryland conducted a horseshoe crab tagging program in collaboration with Limuli Laboratories, a horseshoe crab blood extraction company. In 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) became the coordinator of the horseshoe crab tagging program along the eastern coast of the United States. Information derived from tagging programs assists biologists in learning more about the migratory and spawning behavior of horseshoe crabs. Today, of special interest is the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab as it moves into Maryland waters and coastal bays during part of its yearly migratory cycle. Some population estimates have been based on tag return information.
In Maryland, spawning surveys are currently conducted in the Coastal Bays and tagging there since 2010. Since 2009, tagging has been conducted in Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge.
The tags are circular white discs that are attached to the left side of the horseshoe crab. If you find a tagged horseshoe crab, record the tag number, whether the crab was alive or dead (the USFWS requests that tags are not removed from live horseshoe crabs) , the beach where it was found and the date. The tag has a toll-free number for reporting but reports can also be filed online at: www.fws.gov/northeast/marylandfisheries/crab.cfm or by emailing Sheila Eyler, USFWS, at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Note: there is an underscore between the first and last name that is not visible in the address.) As encouragement, the USFWS offers a small non-monetary reward!
The USFWS has worked with many state and federal agencies, universities, environmental organizations and volunteer groups. Horseshoe crabs have been released from every state on the east coast from Massachusetts to Georgia, and also in the Gulf of Mexico from Mississippi.
Raising Horseshoe Crabs in the Classroom
- Stacy Epperson
Aquatic Resource Education Dept
Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-2
Annapolis, MD 21401