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Annual blessing of the crabs

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Horseshoe crabs are in the midst of their annual spawning scramble on the shores of the Delaware Bay. This ritual has persisted for millions of years; but public interest has surged recently.

(Photo: Flickr/walknboston)

About seventy Bhuddists from as far as Canada will gather on a Delaware beach this weekend for the second annual blessing of the horseshoe crabs.

The animals are in the middle of their yearly spawning ritual, which brings hundreds of thousands of them ashore along the Delaware Bay. In recent years, biologists have been concerned about horseshoe populations; their eggs are a vital food source for migratory shore birds.

Glenn Gauvry is a member of the Dharmadhatu Bhuddist Center in Dover and the founder of the Ecological Research and Development Group, which works to conserve horseshoe crabs. He says the blessing is intended to confer a long and auspicious life upon these animals.

Gauvry: We’re blessing them and they’re there to receive the blessing and it’s an opportunity for the people in attendance to become more aware of this particular animal and help them as they see the need.

Gauvry and those who attend the blessing will also flip over crabs that get stranded on the beach, to help them return to the water after laying their eggs.

The Buddhists are not the only ones with an interest in horseshoe crabs. Delaware’s Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has been counting the number of crabs that come ashore each spring for eleven years. The counts are used to help the state predict future populations, and to develop fishing policies so the animals are not over-harvested.

So many people have volunteered to help biologists on the count this year, that DNREC had to add a second training session. Kelly Valencik, the coastal training program coordinator, says people are more aware of the ecological importance of this animal, and they’re proud that Delaware is the hub for this breeding ritual.

Valencik: This time of year is really exciting. we get to get out there and get our hands dirty, get out in the water, get all sandy while we’re counting the crabs. you see them come up and there’s so much life on the beach. you see them squirming around and crawling and all the activity.

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