Hugh Merkle Team - COMPASS RE

Horseshoe Crab Rescue Program Nears Milestone

Posted June 27th 2022

With more than 150 trained volunteers ready, The Wetlands Institute’s horseshoe crab rescue program, “reTURN the Favor,” is expected to hit the 1 million crabs rescued milestone this year — just in time to celebrate its 10th season.

The program has grown significantly since its first year, when volunteers rescued 5,000 crabs across eight New Jersey beaches. Last season alone, that number was more than 150,000 horseshoe crabs returned to the Delaware Bay after being stranded upside-down or trapped in debris.

“A lot of what we’re doing is turning crabs over,” said Lisa Ferguson, The Wetlands Institute’s director of research and conservation. “So, the whole name of the program came from giving back to the horseshoe crabs for the many ways that the species influences and contributes to our lives in positive ways.”

Volunteers go on beach walks at all hours, often in the middle of the night, to make sure they rescue the crabs that wash up at each high tide. They cover New Jersey beaches throughout the Delaware Bay, from Cape May all the way up to Sea Breeze.

They also play a critical role in gathering data on the crabs they rescue, which helps identify beaches that need restoration work, from sand replenishment to debris removal.

“It’s very gratifying to see how much has grown and how dedicated so many people are to getting out and helping crabs,” Ferguson said. “People are learning and getting involved, and it feels wonderful to be a part of it.”

The Wetlands Institute’s program partners include the executive office of Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, Citizens United for the Maurice River, Friends of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, The Nature Conservancy, the New Jersey Audubon Society, and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. The program is currently supported by Ocean Wind (an Orsted and PSEG project) and the Marshall Reynolds Foundation.

Anyone interested can participate in self-directed programs, provided they attend a training session. There are no more training sessions available this year, but anyone can attend a public walk, led by a coordinator, without a training. For information on programs and training, go to

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