Help Document Horseshoe Crab Nesting Beaches

The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute is asking the public to report observations of horseshoe crab mating activities in order to help biologists identify nesting beaches around the state.


Horseshoe crabs can be found in the United States from Maine to Florida. Adult horseshoe crabs are usually found offshore, but they mate on sandy beaches where the females deposit eggs.

Horseshoe crabs are declining in number throughout their range due to a variety of factors, including overharvesting for the bait industry and loss of reproductive habitat. Seawalls and other types of shoreline development can disrupt the horseshoe crab's reproductive activities.

Migratory shorebirds rely on horseshoe crab eggs as a primary food source during their long migrations. The decrease in horseshoe crab abundance has contributed to notable declines in the abundance of many shorebird species. As a result, many states have put restrictions on horseshoe crab harvesting and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission developed a Horseshoe Crab Fishery Management Plan. In order to gain a better understanding of horseshoe crab biology and mating activities, this management plan requires all Atlantic coastal states to identify horseshoe crab nesting beaches.

Red Knot
Horseshoe crab eggs nourish the red knot for its return to the Arctic Circle.

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) biologists have initiated a statewide survey of nesting beaches where horseshoe crabs mate and spawn their eggs. This survey includes collecting sightings of horseshoe crabs mating on beaches.  Since the state of Florida is so vast, FWRI needs the help of the public for this survey. Observations from the public and data collected by the public will directly contribute to the success of the survey. The horseshoe crab has existed for hundreds of millions of years. With the public's help, it will ensure they will survive for many more years to come.

If you have observed horseshoe crab nesting activities in Florida (two or more horseshoe crabs connected together), please report this information to us. You can report your information with our Online Survey, or you can contact us directly by e-mail or phone. The e-mail address and telephone number are listed below.  Also at the bottom of this page are the protocol and data sheets you can send in.

Toll-free phone: 1-866-252-9326

Download the Florida Horseshoe Crab Survey Datasheet (41 KB)
You will need Adobe Reader to the datasheet.  To download Adobe Reader, visit

Enter the data from your datasheet(s) into our Online Survey or return the data sheets to:

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Senator George Kirkpatrick Marine Lab
Attn: Florida Horseshoe Crab Survey
11350 Southwest 153rd Court
Cedar Key, Florida 32625
If you have any questions, please e-mail:

FWC Facts:
Slow-growing stony corals have been declining throughout the Florida Keys, altering the living reef structure that began forming 6,000 years ago.

Learn More at AskFWC