PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Interstate fishery regulators will soon begin work on a new effort to get a handle on the population health of horseshoe crabs on the East Coast.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission says its assessment of the horseshoe crab stock will begin this month.

Horseshoe crabs are economically important in part because of their role in medicine. They are harvested for their blue blood, which is used to make sure medical products aren't contaminated. Horseshoe crab blood contains a chemical that is used to detect bacteria.

The crabs are also used as bait. They are harvested up and down the East Coast. Harvesters collected more than 1.6 million pounds of them in 2015.

The commission says the stock assessment will evaluate the population's health and help inform management measures.