VICTORY: Terrifying Mid-Atlantic Hermit Crab Challenge Canceled!

VICTORY!! For the last four years, Plight of the Hermies volunteers have tabled at the Mid-Atlantic Hermit Crab Challenge–an annual event in which sensitive hermit crabs are subjected to crowds and loud music as they are forced to “race”–with information on why you should never buy one of these delicate wild animals. We’ve educated hundreds on how to care for hermit crabs they’ve already bought, who, without our help, would likely perish in tiny cages within months.

We are thrilled to announce that we have just confirmed that this year, this terrifying event has been permanently canceled because of low participation. This is a major step forward for these intelligent little beings. We want to give a MAJOR thank you to everyone who helped win this victory! We will continue to advocate for the hermies until our boardwalks are no longer are filled with cages.

This entry was posted on July 11, 2017.

Hermit Crab Industry EXPOSED for the First Time!

Just in time for summer, when beach boardwalks erupt with colorful painted shells housing delicate hermit crabs, PETA has released a new eyewitness video, revealing for the first time the horrors endured by these tiny animals between being plucked from the wild and sold to customers in tiny cages.

PETA found that hermit crabs were dumped into barren pens by the thousands and denied hiding spaces and the opportunity to dig. Workers cracked open crabs’ shells with a manual lever press to force them to inhabit painted shells. HUNDREDS of dead crabs were found every day at this supplier. Take a look:

Please, NEVER buy a hermit crab–only adopt a crab in need. Please urge PetSmart and Petco to stop selling these sensitive wild animals by clicking HERE, and share the footage with all your friends. If you would like more information on caring for hermit crabs, visit our Care Guide.

Urge Care-A-Lot Pet Supply to Stop Selling Hermit Crabs!

Care-A-Lot Pet Supply has long been a favorite destination for animal lovers like me around Hampton Roads to find supplies for their companions. That’s why I was disappointed to hear that they are selling hermit crabs—complex animals who can live for up to 30 years in their natural habitat, but are ripped from the wild and often doomed to a dismal few months of life. And I was even more disappointed that after contacting the company urging it to cease crab sales, I received no reply from the owner.

Hermit crabs thrive in colonies, where they often sleep piled up together. They enjoy climbing, foraging, and exploring and have even been discovered to collaborate in teams to find food.  All land hermit crabs sold in stores, however, have been plucked from the wild, as they do not breed readily in captivity. They are often violently ripped from their protective shells and forced into shells coated in toxic paint that can slowly kill them. After purchase, most hermit crabs do not live for more than a few months to a year, spending their short captive lives in barren, arid cages. Many slowly perish from suffocation because their modified gills require high humidity to breathe. Even when stores provide care sheets for these crabs, most purchasers leave the store ill-equipped to care for these animals, who have a myriad of complex requirements, including regulated temperature and humidity; de-chlorinated fresh and salt water; deep, moist bedding for molting; fresh fruits and vegetables; a large aquarium habitat; and much, much more.

Please click here and join me in urging Care-A-Lot to pull hermit crabs from its shelves!

This entry was posted on September 26, 2014.

New Jersey’s Courier-Post covers the hermies’ plight!

This article, featuring an interview with Laura Cascada, founder of Plight of the Hermies, originally appeared in the Courier-Post


Hermit crabs need more than food and water  

 Carly Q. Romalino, @CarlyQRomalino8:39 a.m. EDT August 14, 2014

Even with a slightly askew SpongeBob SquarePants on its shell, a hermit crab climbing the wire cage in front of a T-shirt shop is symbolic of the Jersey Shore.

Despite a track record as short-lived summer pets, hermit crabs are kid magnets.

At less than $10, it’s hard to say no. Boardwalk vendors pitch the crustaceans as perfect starter pets for youngsters. They’re easy to transport, won’t leave fur on the couch and don’t need walks.

But the land crab — long a favorite vacation souvenir — requires an unexpected amount of nurturing if it’s going to make it more than a few weeks at home.

“It’s a nice first pet,” according to Martha Huelsenbeck, owner of Long Beach Island-based Shell Shanty, one of the country’s largest hermit crab distributors.

“You can say I have enough to accommodate the country,” she added.

Huelsenbeck’s company, co-owned with her husband, Bill, has permits to import the crustaceans from their native Caribbean habitat, where they can live more than 30 years and grow to softball size in the wild.

The crabs are plucked from beaches, flown to the United States and stored in the Huelsenbecks’ Jersey Shore warehouse. The couple distributes thousands of crabs to East and West Coast shore points and everywhere in between.

Wisconsin, Texas, Idaho and Ohio are hermit crab hot spots.

“They don’t carry diseases, they’re certainly inexpensive to have, and you don’t have to walk them,” noted Huelsenbeck, a former schoolteacher who fell into the hermit crab trade decades ago. Shell Shanty began wholesale operations in 1985.

But while enthusiasts tout ease of care, advocates emphasize the clawed critters have other needs that might not make them a good choice for a 10-year-old’s terrarium.

“Hermit crabs are actually really complex animals,” explained Laura Cascada, a Virginia-based crab advocate for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA advisories this week reminded shoregoers to buy a commemorative T-shirt on the boardwalk instead of supporting the hermit crab trade.

Boardwalk shops have “no idea what hermit crabs need to survive,” she emphasized.

“They send you home with a few lines of some very basic needs.”

Feeding is as simple as food and water. But the crabs require 75 percent humidity to breathe and a year-round temperature near 80 degrees to mimic their natural Caribbean habitat.

They need sand — not gravel — in order to molt a hard exoskeleton as they grow. Chlorinated tap water and painted shells — those featuring SpongeBob, for instance — slowly poison the creature.

Crabs also prefer to live in groups. They sleep in piles, collaborate to find food and “have intricate shell-changing rituals,” according to Cascada.

“Unfortunately they are low on the totem pole in terms of regulation in the country,” she explained. “Our (animal welfare) laws don’t recognize them as beings that suffer as much as other animals.

“They don’t have the same type of nervous system.”

Last year, British animal behavior scientist Robert Elwood revealed strong evidence that crustaceans — lobsters, shrimp and crabs — do experience pain.

In his studies, hermit crabs made decisions based on pain, moving out of shells where they were shocked and into ones where they weren’t.

“Hermit crabs have been shown to nurse wounds when pain is inflicted on them,” Cascada said.

She has built elaborate “crabitats” for five “rescued” land crabs. The most recent addition was living on someone’s desk in a small wire cage.

Hermit crab rescues aren’t uncommon in the United States. The Hermit Crab Association, run by Ohio-based Rachel Hamilla, connects experienced crab keepers with unwanted crustaceans.

“Our group’s goal is not to stop the sale of hermit crabs, but to get owners and shop keepers to understand that these are not replaceable throwaway pets,” Hamilla explained.

Hamilla has adopted more than 70 crabs. More than 60 “hermits” live in a custom-built 135-gallon enclosure, with 11 more “teeny little ones” in a 10-gallon tank.

The smallest is the size of a dime, the largest a softball.

“Hermits require so much more care than any shop will ever tell a parent … the shop would lose the sale,” Hamilla noted.

“Getting boardwalk communities to understand these needs is hard because hermits have been a summertime stable for decades and bring in so much money.”

Carly Q. Romalino writes for the Courier-Post: 856-486-2476;

This entry was posted on August 15, 2014.

Tabling for the Hermies!

Summer is upon us, and several volunteers (and many funders!) have helped us put together a table here in Virginia Beach to speak up for the hermies at the Old Beach Green Market. We’ve already spent two Saturdays out at the festival, giving away hundreds of leaflets, teaching kids about hermit crabs with awesome games, and shedding light on why buying a hermit crab is harmful to these ocean critters. Check out some of the pictures below!

Tabling for Hermit Crabs

Tabling for Hermit Crabs

Tabling for Hermit Crabs

We’ve also just launched our brand new care sheet, with tons of tips on how to help your hermie live for up to 30 years! Check it out below, and visit our Get Active page to learn how you can spread the word!

Hermit Crab Care Guide

This entry was posted on June 17, 2014.

One Green Planet: The Plight of the Hermit Crabs

The below piece was written by me for One Green Planet, where it originally appeared.

Every year around this time, shops lining the beach city boardwalks fill their familiar wire cages with curious critters. Tourist children ogle as golf-ball sized crustaceans cling to the wires, and to one another, with hairy purplish legs and almost menacing, if not so comically small, claws.

The shells sheathing their squishy abdomens feature images of Spongebob Squarepants and the New York Giants’ logo, and that’s it; the kids are hooked. After parents cave in to those wonder-filled eyes, the youngsters dance off, swinging a cage no bigger than a designer handbag to and fro into the sunset.

The Real Cost of a Hermit Crab Souvenir

The hermit crab inside this enclosure could have lived up to 30 years, but now, he will likely survive less than one. He will sit on a kitchen counter, receiving morsels of chemical-laden commercial food and a dribble of water as often as his human caretakers remember.

Soon, he will struggle to breathe because his modified gills require tropics-level humidity, an amenity that is severely lacking in most of American suburbia as summer sizzles out into autumn. He may have an itch to grow, to shed his exoskeleton the way we disregard ill-fitting clothing to Goodwill, but alas, it won’t budge. Without the ability to burrow into moist, protective substrate, his natural growth processes will simply stop. Constricted by his exoskeleton and facing imminent suffocation, he will soon perish the way hundreds of thousands of his kind have before him.

Hermits are Wild Animals Too

Hermit crabs are wild animals who thrive on tropical coastlines in colonies, often sleeping stacked on top of one another and even collaborating to trade homes or reach a food source. According torecent research, when faced with a difficult choice — to withstand a painful shock or to abandon their crucial protective shell in order to escape the pain — these sensitive crustaceans appear to weigh their options, taking into account the value of the shell in their ultimate decision.

Despite these advanced attributes, hermit crabs for decades have been reduced to tiny trinkets, plucked from their habitat by the thousands, violently shoved into poisonous painted shells, and put on display for the masses to cart home, dooming them to an abbreviated existence.

As land hermit crabs cannot viably reproduce in captivity’s suboptimal conditions, this industry relies on the wild crab population season after season to fill its cages. Captive crabs, of course, require an assortment of various shells to inhabit, the way that girl all of us knew in high school filled her closet with shoes from glittery flip flops to stilettos, except in this case, it’s vital for survival.

The collection of these shells for captive crabs contributes to what’s been dubbed the “hermit crab housing crisis”: at any given time, 30 percent of wild hermit crabs inhabit shells that are just too small because of lack of availability (read: the previous owners must have vacated — died — for the shell to go on the market).

It’s almost as simple as teaching math to an elementary school student: if there are 10 shells to go around and 8 hermit crabs to fill them, all’s more or less right with the world. But once we pluck 5 shells from the mix for our caged hermit crab at home (or our own personal shell collection), 3 wild crabs must think outside the box. I hear old bottle fragments are all the rage these days for those unfortunate individuals. Finally, a win for ocean trash? If only these makeshift “shells” providedadequate shelter.

What You Can Do

There’s a simple solution: we must stop buying these peculiar, intelligent sea creatures and urge stores to shut their doors on the hermit crab trade for good.

If you have hermit crabs, it’s your responsibility to learn about their needs, like high humidity and temperature, deep substrate for molting, unpainted shells, and de-chlorinated fresh and salt water. A captive crab should never be released to fend for himself in the wild, as the chances of finding the perfect mix of conditions in a prime location are next to nil.

But we can strive to give these unlucky critters the best fighting chance, and you can learn how to at

This entry was posted on May 28, 2014.