Crash: A Tale of Two Species

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This Sunday, 10 February, at 8pm EST, the award-winning PBS series "Nature" will feature migratory shorebirds, the Red Knot, and the horseshoe crab. This program, Crash: A Tale of Two Species, examines the amazing relationship between these two threatened species.

The red knot migrates from the tip of South America to its breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic, and stops off briefly at Delaware Bay. Here it relies almost completely on horseshoe crab eggs to refuel for the second leg of its arduous journey.

Since the 1990s, over-harvesting of horseshoe crabs for bait by the fishing industry has caused the density of its eggs to plummet, which affects the Red Knot's ability to find and consume enough eggs to survive. As a result, the knot has declined from a high of more than 100,000 birds in the 1980s to fewer than 15,000 today. Scientists warn that unless this trend is reversed, the red knot could go extinct as early as 2010.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection recently announced its intention to continue a moratorium on horseshoe crab harvest in Delaware Bay to give the species a chance to rebound. However, the state agency is under heavy pressure from fisheries interests to lift the ban. A final decision on the New Jersey moratorium is expected in the next few weeks.

You can make a donation to help the American Bird Conservancy protect the red knot and the horseshoe crab. (NOTE: I have no connection with the American Bird Conservancy, but I am deeply concerned about the plight of the red knot, which I have written about for five years on this blog).

Scientist Larry Niles is among those leading conservation efforts for the red knot, whose existence depends on horseshoe crabs in the Delaware Bay. Crash: A Tale of Two Species explores the fascinating intersection of the two creatures and our crucial role in their continued survival. [3:04]

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