Thanks to its use in biomedical research, the horseshoe crab maintains its protective status allowing the population to continue to flourish. Without the continued need by the biomedical industry, the legal protection for this special species is not guaranteed, and horseshoe crabs would again fall prey to use as bait by fisherman.To dispel the myths currently being disseminated within the biomedical industry about the population status of the Atlantic horseshoe crab and the use of its blood in the testing process, here are some key facts and scientific data to clear up any confusion and educate those who might be concerned about the horseshoe crab.
FACT: As a result of its R&D efforts over many years, Charles River has advanced technology reducing the amount of LAL needed for endotoxin testing, including our FDA-licensed LAL test cartridges (license # 1197), which use less than 95% of the raw material required for a traditional bacterial endotoxin test. If all LAL tests were performed using this optimized technology, today’s entire worldwide LAL demand could be met with the blood from less than our current annual supply.
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FACT: While the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species Red List considers Limulus polyphemus a vulnerable species, the most recent stock assessment report published by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission highlights the progression over the past 10 years of the regional stock benchmarks and current status. Atlantic horseshoe crab populations have increased in the southeast, and in all areas where the biomedical industry is present the populations are either stable or thriving.
Read the full fishery management plan here »
FACT: The blood of the horseshoe crab is a natural, sustainable resource that is treasured by the biomedical industry, making the donor animal the focus of protection and conservation efforts. Without the continued need by the biomedical industry, the legal protection of this species is not guaranteed. LAL alternative products have not yet demonstrated strong enough safety and efficacy to receive FDA licensing.
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FACT: Most, if not all, life-saving drugs require compendial bacterial endotoxin testing before they are released. The current FDA-approved LAL test derived from the blood of the horseshoe crab plays a critical role in ensuring the safety of these products and, more critically, the safety of the patient receiving the product.
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FACT: Crabs gathered for Charles River’s strictly controlled blood drawing program are hand collected by licensed and trained fishermen and carefully returned, unharmed, to their natural habitat in 24 hours. Charles River treats the Atlantic horseshoe crab with the utmost care and respect during the collection process. We employ only the most careful procedures when handling horseshoe crabs, whose continued success as a species is important both to biomedicine and the local ecosystem.
Read about our hand-collecting and bleeding policy here »
FACT: The commercial baiting industry is the largest threat to the Atlantic horseshoe crab, while the biomedical industry’s need for them has actually driven the development of laws to protect it. Without these laws they would fall prey to overfishing. The 2019 Horseshoe Crab Benchmark Stock Assessment Peer Review Report highlights that in 2016, 787,223 horseshoe crabs were harvested in permitted states along the Atlantic coast for eel and whelk bait, with a 100% mortality rate for these crabs.
Review the South Carolina state laws »
FACT: LAL manufacturers are required to provide detailed information on the number of animals that had blood drawn, their sex, types of injuries, and mortalities, if any, to the Department of Natural Resources. This information is then made public on the website of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Read the ASMFC data »
FACT: In 2000, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission introduced trawling quotas to limit the number of horseshoe crabs caught for uses other than LAL, reducing collection numbers by 80 percent.
Read the facts on ASMFC »