The Horseshoe Crab Fishery in Florida
Horseshoe crabs are harvested commercially in the U.S. for three purposes: bait (conch and eel fisheries), marine-life (aquaria, research, etc.) and biomedical use (which utilizes the crab's blood). Compared to other states, Florida has a small bait fishery for eels and a large marine-life fishery. In March 2000, a series of management measures for horseshoe crabs went into effect in Florida. The regulations required a license to harvest and set a limit on the number of animals each licensee could harvest per day (25 to 100 animals allowed per day per person depending on the permit). In 2002, a biomedical permitting rule created a mechanism to allow for biomedical collection.
Florida horseshoe crab landings have been recorded since 1987. Bait and marine life landings have been recorded separately since 1997. Bait landings were high in 1999 because new regulations restricted harvest in other states and Florida did not yet have regulations in place.