Southern Brooklyn

NYPD Busts Horseshoe Crabs Poachers After Chopper Chase

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Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

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.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. I listened to that damned helicopter for what felt like a long time Monday night. I am so glad something good came of it

  2. Hey, it’s their home. We’re just visitors.

    I’m tickled these guys got caught. We are so lucky to have a fairly good population in Jamaica Bay – the birds depend on them and they’re fascinating old creatures. I’m looking forward to watching that PBS documentary, it looks good.

  3. a friend of mine suggested that the fine should be $500 each PLUS they have to cover the expenses incurred by the NYPD in the chase. I like it. Wonder what it costs to fly a helicopter really fast for half an hour?

  4. I’m glad they got caught too. We overharvested oysters 100 years ago, and their population is just returning now.

    And the Sheepshead has yet to return to the bay…..

    Nevertheless, horseshoe crabs aren’t very friendly.

  5. Oh, I think the problem is that they are TOO friendly. Check out the titles on the “related posts”. heh heh.

    I paddle with the Sebago Canoe Club in Canarsie and they find our kayaks to be incredibly attractive. Female horseshoe crabs are bigger than the males and the bigger they are, the more the males like them. They run into a 16 foot fiberglass sea kayak and it’s “oh, baby, oh, baby, oh where have you BEEN all my life?”. Pretty funny!

    There are no Sheepshead in Sheepshead Bay? I didn’t know that. I’d just noticed the plaque on the waterfront showing the fish after which the bay is named earlier this year – that’s really sad that there aren’t actually any there.

  6. People used to come here to watch the horseshoe crabs mate. It used to be a tourist attraction. Definitely a good use of taxpayer money.

  7. Poaching IS a crime! I enjoy these crabs in their environment. This is their breeding period. Poaching now could damage the population and their place in the ecology of the Bay. It was appropriate use of funds. I only wish they could have tacked both boats.

  8. This IS crime. The park belongs to all of us, and when these guys decided that they are entitled to harvest the park for their personal gain, they stole from all of us.

  9. rberke, you said it better than me (we were typing replies at the same time or I might have just up-voted yours and left it at that). Thanks!

  10. How does this qualify as poaching? People catch crabs of the coney island pier all the time, how is this different than that.

  11. Horseshoe crabs are not just common crabs. They’re protected. And, in fact, they’re not crabs at all, but closer to arachnids (spiders).

  12. Sheepsheads have been seen seen off Sandy Hook, and there have been unverified sightings off Sheepshead Bay in recent years. If the oysters returned to the Plumb Beach area the Sheepsheads might come back in larger numbers.

  13. So I killed a spider the other day should i watch out for police in helicopters tyring to get their fifteen minutes of fame?

  14. I don’t know ask the tree hugging environmentalists above who think they know everything but actually know very little about anything.

  15. So what you are saying is you would rather have people suffer from E.Coli then sacrafice a few horseshoe crabs to give people a way to fight E.coli. . . great thinking?

  16. […] Last Memorial Day, we reported on a late night NYPD helicopter chase that targeted poachers illegally harvesting horseshoe crabs off  in Jamaica Bay. The crabs are prized by the pharmaceutical industry for a component in their blood, but most poaching occurs by commercial fisherman who use the crabs as bait and by some ethnic groups that eat them. The Times also indicated that laws designed to protect the horseshoe crab population are creating as many problems as they solve: […]

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