and Animal Feed
earliest reports of harvesting horseshoe crabs date back
to colonial times. Farmers
in the 1800s continued the practice of using horseshoe crabs
for fertilizer. Records show that in the 1870s, over four million
crabs were taken each year. They were harvested from the
beaches by hand or from the water with the use of pound nets.
The crabs were dried and ground up before they were applied
to the fields. Even with this harvesting pressure, the population
of horseshoe crabs remained at about 1.5 million from the 1880s
through the 1920s. But from then on, the population declined
steadily with each decade until the 1960s. Because of the decline
in the stock and an increase in the demand for chemical fertilizers,
harvesting horseshoe crabs for fertilizer ceased in the 1960s.
Besides its use as fertilizer, some farmers also used horseshoe
crabs as a cheap source of food for chickens and hogs. However,
the crabs gave the meat a "fishy" taste that required
weeks of purging on grain to remove.
horseshoe crabs are once again in demand — this time
research and the production of LAL,
and as bait for the eel
and whelk fisheries. Click on the highlighted terms above to
learn more about each.