Protecting Health

The Consumer Role in Conservation

Horseshoe crabs have inhabited the earth for approximately 470 million years.  It is only in their most recent history that they have encountered a species that has threatened their existence… humans. To be good stewards and protect the horseshoe crab, there are things the consumers of horseshoe crab blood can do.

Who are the consumers?

Consumers of horseshoe crab blood are not just the fisherman who use them as bait or the LAL and TAL manufacturers.  The consumers also include companies who use LAL and TAL to test products for endotoxin content, including pharmaceutical, medical device, dialysis and similar companies.

But there is another group of consumers that may not be as obvious. If you’ve received a vaccine, used insulin injections, or had an IV in the hospital, you are a consumer of horseshoe crab blood. If you’ve ever vaccinated a pet, or had a pace maker, stent, or joint replacement implanted, you were also dependent on horseshoe crab blood. In one way or another, we are all consumers of horseshoe crab blood and all of us can play a role in conservation.

What we can do

  • LAL and TAL Users
    Increasing demand for LAL/TAL is cause for concern as horseshoe crabs are a potentially finite resource. Horseshoe crab populations in the US are stabilized because their supply is tightly regulated and conservation efforts are being carried out to ensure this continues. Regulations governing the supply of horseshoe crabs is more complex or non-existent in other areas of the world. If their use is not managed properly, declining crab populations in the Asia-Pacific region could ultimately put the world’s supply of LAL/TAL at risk. If Asian horseshoe crab populations were depleted, the industry would have to become solely reliant upon the resources in the Atlantic coast regions of North America. Companies required to conduct endotoxin testing on their products can support conservation by using LAL and TAL from manufacturers who use best practices in collecting and handling the horseshoe crabs.In addition, companies can adopt alternative methods to reduce their need for LAL and TAL. Alternative methods, like the recombinant Factor C assay, perform comparably or sometimes even better than TAL/LAL-based methods depending on the application. The test is easy to perform and has an equivalent sensitivity range to natural BET assays, while also offering several other benefits over these methods like improved lot-to-lot consistency and enhanced endotoxin specificity. Furthermore, an alternative that does not require an animal source would meet initiatives to reduce animal use in testing.
  • All of us
    We can all participate in the protection and conservation of the horseshoe crab. When we see a horseshoe crab on its back, we can simply flip it over: Just flip ‘em!™.  We can help keep beaches clean for spawning and to help maintain nursery grounds.  During the spawning season, volunteer opportunities are available to help survey the horseshoe crabs coming ashore. Learning about our neighbor the horseshoe crab and its important role in our health and the health of our pets, and sharing that knowledge, supports the sustainability of the horseshoe crab.

Learn more

See our list of companies that purchase their endotoxin detection materials from sustainable and responsible manufacturers.

Looking for more on the science? Visit our Research section.