Horseshoe Crabs, Politics, and Time Horizons

horseshoe crabs.jpg
In Better Days….

I’ve always been partial to horseshoe crabs. They’re enormously cool animals. Unfortunately, according to the Washington Post (requires simple registration) they seem to be in danger of being overharvestd, which is bad news for them, but also for the migratory birds that feast on their eggs. I hope that something is done to save the horseshoe crabs and the migratory birds. But that will take….incentives, like the kinds provided by property rights in the shores and in the offshore fishing (and crab harvesting) grounds.

Check out this admission in the Washington Post article by one of the politicians who’s trying to do something about the problem:

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who oversees endangered species as a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said he is worried about the tourist dollars his state could lose if the shorebirds disappear. Last month, New Jersey officials closed parts of 15 beaches to try to ensure the birds had a decent chance of unearthing horseshoe crab eggs.

Lautenberg said he is trying to persuade his colleagues to pay attention to the red knot’s potential demise, but it is hard to get them to focus on an ecosystem’s gradual decline: “If it takes place after the next election, in most cases, it doesn’t get a lot of attention around here.”

Maybe…just maybe….well-defined, legally secure, and tradable property rights just might provide incentives to look beyond the next election. It’s a thought.

P.S. Those interested in incentive-based solutions to environmental and conservation issues can learn more at the Political Economy Research Center and at They’re excellent starting places for students looking both for ways to make the world a better place and for topics and resources for school papers, theses, dissertations, and beyond. The possibilities are endless and exciting.

2 Responses to “Horseshoe Crabs, Politics, and Time Horizons”

  1. Anonymous

    In case the link to the Washington Post article goes down (that happens sometimes), the citation information is:
    “Horseshoe Crabs’ Decline Further Imperils Shorebirds:
    Mid-Atlantic States Searching for Ways to Reverse Trend”

    By Juliet Eilperin
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, June 10, 2005; A03