WWF’s latest market survey found adult endangered horseshoe crabs are available for sale in Hong Kong
“Horseshoe Crab Counts” campaign appealed to seafood business to pledge to stop selling or displaying adult horseshoe crabs



Posted 21 June 2021
Horseshoe crabs
Horseshoe crabs
© WWF-Hong Kong
WWF-Hong Kong launched a one-year project “Horseshoe Crab Counts” Adult Horseshoe Crab Conservation and Education Project in June 2020. The core of this project involved conducting a survey of the seafood markets for adult horseshoe crabs. The survey found that these prehistoric animals were available in the seafood market. They were being sold and displayed in a number of popular seafood hotspots in Hong Kong, and about half (53%) of the total sales were identified as the endangered Chinese horseshoe crab (Tachypleus tridentatus)WWF-Hong Kong urged the seafood market to stop selling or displaying adult horseshoe crabs.   
 
The market survey was conducted by WWF-Hong Kong from September 2020 to March 2021. Ninety-eight seafood restaurants and stalls, located in Sai Kung Seafood Street, Lei Yue Mun Seafood Street, Sam Shing in Tuen Mun, Cheung Chau and North Point Pier, were visited on random dates to record sales or display of adult horseshoe crabs. The survey found that most of the premises did not sell horseshoe crabs and only seven of them had the animal on sale or display. Most of the incidents were found in Sai Kung Seafood Street, Lei Yue Mun Seafood Street and Sam Shing in Tuen Mun. 
 
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The Horseshoe crab was identified as a priority species requiring implementation of “Conservation Action Plans” in the “Hong Kong Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2016-2021”. To understand consumers’ views on sales of this species of conservation concern in the market, WWF-Hong Kong commissioned the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) to conduct a survey to understand the general public’s knowledge of horseshoe crabs and their views on the conservation policies of the species. 
 
The survey, conducted in January 2021, involved phone interviews with over 1,000 citizens. Results showed that general knowledge of horseshoe crabs was relatively low, with over half of the respondents (53%) saying “they have never heard of horseshoe crabs before, as an animal”. However, after learning that horseshoe crabs are species of conservation concern, almost all respondents (99%) said “they would not consume the animal for any purpose”. 
 
Lydia Pang, Project Manager, Oceans Conservation at WWF-Hong Kong remarks “Public opinion research showed that the general public was willing to move forward to support conservation of adult horseshoe crabs. Some seafood restaurants might sell or display uncommon species to draw consumers’ attention, but close to 60% of the general public claimed that restaurants selling or displaying species of conservation concern such as horseshoe crabs would decrease their intention to choose those restaurants. In addition, over half of the public (52%) said that they would favour seafood restaurants or stalls that opt for ocean-friendly practice. This means ocean-friendly seafood business will be more appealing to customers.” 
 
WWF-Hong Kong believes that the seafood business has a major role to play in supporting marine conservation, because they can help to improve fishing operations and consumer behaviour. WWF-Hong Kong has initiated a “Horseshoe Crab Counts” campaign, encouraging the seafood business to pledge not to sell or display horseshoe crabs. A key visual sticker of the campaign will be displayed at the pledged venues for easy identification by customers and to enhance public understanding. To date, a total of 26 stores in Sai Kung Seafood Street, Lei Yue Mun Seafood Street, Sam Shing in Tuen Mun, Cheung Chau and North Point Pier have taken pledge. WWF-Hong Kong is calling on more stores to support the campaign.
 
WWF-Hong Kong also conducted interviews with fishermen to understand the exploitation status of adult horseshoe crabs. Many local fishermen commented that horseshoe crabs were non-target species in general, though occasionally small numbers were accidentally harvested. They agreed the distribution and the numbers of adult horseshoe crabs were decreasing, and the profit generated from horseshoe crab sales was not high. Some fishermen were willing to release the bycatch back to the ocean.  
 
Professor Laurence McCook, Head of Oceans Conservation at WWF-Hong Kong says “Given their serious situation globally, WWF is asking people to consider horseshoe crabs as ocean treasures and not as food. We hope the whole seafood supply chain, from consumers, seafood markets and fishermen, will work together to curtail the consumption of these prehistoric marvels.” 
 
Horseshoe crabs
Horseshoe crabs
© WWF-Hong Kong Enlarge
 “Horseshoe Crab Counts” campaign
“Horseshoe Crab Counts” campaign
© WWF-Hong Kong Enlarge