A bevy of illegally harvested horseshoe crabs were saved in a late night helicopter raid. The New York Times is reporting that officers in the NYPD’s aviation unit scoped suspicious activity through night-vision goggles over Jamaica Bay and followed the escaping horseshoe poachers to Sheepshead Bay.
The pursuit, which lasted 30 minutes, took place last Monday night. NYPD aviation unit officers spotted four poachers scooping up horseshoe crabs, which come to shore in May and June, into two boats with no lights. To harvest horseshoe crabs, one needs a licence and has to follow strict quotas.
As the boats sped in different directions, the NYPD chopper followed one of them to a dock at Sheepshead Bay. Two men, Robert Wolter, 28, and Joseph Knauer, 33, were arrested by federal officers. Both were unlicensed. The other two suspects remain at large.
Wolter and Knauer were cited and released and face either a $500 fine or up to six months in a federal prison.
The poachers were trying to sell the crabs, which go for $5 a piece, as bait. According to a PBS report, horseshoe crab blood sells for $15,000 a quart because of its usefulness in the biomedical industry, though it is doubtful that common poachers have the means to harvest the blood. The blood serves as an effective agent in battling bacteria like E. coli.
All the recovered crabs were in fine health and were released back into the ocean.