Feds Halt Va. Horseshoe Crab Catch

Friday, October 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SPRINGFIELD, Va. (AP) — The federal government shut down Virginia's horseshoe crab fishery after the state refused to accept a quota to protect the crab from overfishing.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta announced Thursday that the moratorium will take effect Oct. 23. Violators can face 10 years in prison and $200,000 fines.

Earlier this year, the 15-state Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to adopt horseshoe crab quotas. Virginia was the only state to oppose the quotas, which would have required the state to cut its take from 710,000 to 152,495.

Virginia, which has the largest crab harvest, agreed to cut its take, but only to 355,000.

Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources John Paul Woodley requested a delay from the Commerce Department so the commission could consider a proposal at its meeting next week to allow Virginia to swap with other states that don't use their entire quota.

The horseshoe crab is used as bait for conch, prized as a delicacy in Asia. Medical researchers use a product from the crab's blue, copper-based blood to test drugs and medical devices for contamination.

Woodley said the quotas hurt Virginia most because its $7 million conch fishery is the largest of any Atlantic state. He also said there's no proof the crabs are threatened.

But Mineta said an independent panel recommended strong conservation measures.

Daniel Beard, senior vice president of the National Audubon Society, applauded Mineta's action.

``Virginia is engaging in high seas piracy, stealing the horseshoe crabs from other states' fishermen and the migratory shorebirds'' that eat their eggs, he said.


On the Net:

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission: http://www.asmfc.org/