Horseshoe Crab Harvesting Cut for Some Va. Watermen - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Horseshoe Crab Harvesting Cut for Some Va. Watermen

 CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. - Life on the water is not easy and some Virginia watermen say life is about to get even tougher when they are no longer allowed to harvest horseshoe crabs in the Chincoteague and Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuges.

Randy Birch is a life-long Chincoteague waterman who said that a decent chunk of his annual income comes from the harvest of horseshoe crabs in those refuges.

"This is one little niche we have, the full time watermen have, to make a living.  We do a lot of other things, fish, oyster, clam, crab, but certain times a year, only certain things go on and this is one little spurt, one little building block of our income," Birch said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is developing a comprehensive conservation plan for the Chincoteague and Wallops Island refuges.  Part of the plan include Fish and Wildlife enforcing a rule that has been on the books since 1997 in the U.S. Refuge Improvement Act.  The rule states any commercial use of a refuge must directly benefit the refuge.  Fish and Wildlife officials said it is time to enforce the rule because the harvesting of horseshoe crabs is not beneficial to the two refuges.

"We understand that it has been going on for some time and it is just through this process and reevaluating everything on the refuge, we thought it would be an appropriate time to make folks aware that we have to take action and we have to be responsible and uphold what the law says we have to do," said Joe McCauley, a spokesperson for Fish and Wildlife.

Watermen WBOC spoke with said this will be a real shock to their way of life, but one they are going to have to deal with.  Fish and Wildlife are taking written comments on the comprehensive conservation plan until August 15th, for anyone who wants to voice their opinion on the topic.




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