New Jersey has proposed continuing a moratorium on the commercial harvest of horseshoe crabs, banned for the last two years out of concern for the red knot.

The small shorebird alights on the Delaware Bay's beaches every spring, in mid-migration from the tip of South America to its breeding grounds in the Arctic. The bird's arrival coincides with the crab's spawning, and it depends on fat-rich crab eggs for refueling. Biologists say declines in both the numbers of crabs and eggs on the beaches have caused a precipitous drop in the red knot population.

The Department of Environmental Protection proposed the ban yesterday. The current moratorium ends Dec. 31, but a spokeswoman said officials hope to have the new ban in place by April 1, when the crab harvest has typically begun in past years.

Written comments are being accepted until Feb. 1.

- Sandy Bauers