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Wisdom of Crowds reveals decline of Asian horseshoe crabs in Beibu Gulf, China

  • Yongyan Liao (a1), Hwey-Lian Hsieh (a2), Shuqing Xu (a3), Qiuping Zhong (a3), Juan Lei (a3), Mingzhong Liang (a3), Huaiyi Fang (a3), Lili Xu (a3), Wuying Lin (a4), Xiaobo Xiao (a4), Chang-Po Chen (a2), Siu Gin Cheung (a5) and Billy K. Y. Kwan (a1)...

Abstract

Population decline among Asian horseshoe crabs in Asia is increasingly reported, but knowledge of their population and ecological status in China is limited. We conducted community interviews in 30 fishing villages around Beibu Gulf in Guangxi, China, to collect distribution information about the potential spawning/nursery grounds of Tachypleus tridentatus and Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda, and any imminent threats to their populations. Based on the results from 400 respondents we identified 45 potential spawning/nursery grounds distributed widely along the shores of Beibu Gulf. We visited 10 of these sites and verified the presence of juvenile horseshoe crabs by field surveys. Nearly all respondents reported an overall depletion in horseshoe crab populations from these 45 sites, which they attributed mainly to unsustainable fishing practices. Respondents who reported having seen horseshoe crab mating pairs on shores were mostly older people, which may suggest a considerable reduction in horseshoe crabs coming to the shores to spawn in recent years. The mean daily harvest of adult T. tridentatus offshore, as indicated by fishers, has declined from c. 50–1,000 in the 1990s to 0–30 individuals during 2011–2016. Our Wisdom of Crowds approach, supported by confirmatory field surveys, is a cost-effective method for assessing the population status of horseshoe crabs, and the level of threat they face. Similar approaches with other species are likely to be particularly valuable in the Asia–Pacific region, where well-structured population monitoring is largely unaffordable.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

(Corresponding author) E-mail kityuekwan@qzhu.edu.cn

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Also at: Ocean College of Qinzhou University, People's Republic of China

Supplementary material for this article can be found at https://doi.org/10.1017/S003060531700117X

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