Charles River Lab signs joint agreement for protection of crabs used in medical tests

(Reuters) - Charles River Laboratories has signed a joint agreement with four entities to enhance protections in South Carolina for horseshoe crabs and a bird that feeds on their eggs, they said on Thursday.

The crabs, prized for their milky-blue blood that is used to detect bacterial contamination in intravenous drugs or implants, have been listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Wildlife advocates have for long criticized the use of blood of horseshoe crabs in safety tests for medical products, including those needed before a COVID-19 vaccine.

Red knots, a bird federally listed as a threatened species, eats horseshoe crab eggs.

The agreement restricts the collection of horseshoe crab on the beaches of over 30 islands across the South Carolina coast, and prohibits the temporary placement of female horseshoe crabs in holding ponds so they continue to spawn on the state's beaches, among other measures.

The joint agreement was signed by South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, private companies Gault Seafood and Marsh Point Farm and the Southern Environmental Law Center, which is representing Defenders of Wildlife and the Coastal Conservation League.

The agreement provides for five years of enhanced protections for spawning horseshoe crabs and migrating red knots while ensuring continued access to horseshoe crabs for use in biomedical testing.

(Reporting by Pratik Jain and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)