Treading Lightly to Protect Horseshoe Crabs on Plumb Beach

Hatching horseshoe crab larvae are just a fraction of the size of this tiny shell, most likely from a crab about one year old. Photo © braindamaged217*

Summer intern Debra Kriensky reports on current efforts to protect developing horseshoe crabs on Plumb Beach:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is set to start Phase II of their work on Brooklyn’s Plumb Beach, and NYC Audubon is advising the Corps on how to tread lightly around something they might not even be able to see: baby horseshoe crabs!


Right before Hurricane Sandy hit, the Army Corps completed Phase I of the project, during which they added new sand to the eroding beach in an effort to protect the adjacent Belt Parkway. Phase II, set to begin in July once the majority of horseshoe crab spawning is complete, will involve building permanent stone groins and a breakwater to mitigate future beach erosion. New vegetation being planted on the dunes and a fence will also help protect the Belt Parkway and a popular bike path from drifting sand.


While the Army Corps has been preparing for Phase II, the parking lot to the beach has been closed to the public. However, NYC Audubon had been granted access to the beach throughout May and June to monitor the horseshoe crabs that come to Plumb Beach in large numbers during the full and new moon to spawn.


And though they arrived a bit behind schedule, horseshoe crabs have indeed returned to Plumb Beach in strong numbers this year, despite the changes made by Sandy and the Army Corps (close to 1,800 crabs counted over 12 nights, compared to around 1,300 in 2012). While numbers of spawning crabs are winding down at this point, heavy machinery and construction on the beach could mean bad news for the hatching larvae. NYC Audubon and partners at Fordham University and the National Park Service are working with the Corps of Engineers to minimize disturbance to hatchlings while respecting the deadlines that have been contracted for the work.
-Debra Kriensky


Leave a Reply