For Immediate Release, April 16, 2009
Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 907-1533
Chris Jones, (936) 615-3740
Florida Votes to Protect Freshwater Turtles from Commercial Harvest
Action follows Petition from Center for Biological Diversity
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.— The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wednesday published a proposed rule to ban the commercial harvest of wild freshwater turtles in both public and private waters. Agency staff advised the Commission at its April meeting to accept language of a proposed rule to close turtle harvest in both types of waters after receiving an emergency rulemaking request in March 2008 from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, and the St. Johns Riverkeeper. The conservation and public health groups asked the Commission to prohibit turtle harvest for two reasons: (1) in order to protect human health; and (2) for the conservation of native turtle species.
Peter Galvin, conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity, stated, “We commend Florida for taking this historic action to protect freshwater turtles.”
While closing commercial harvest is a historic first step in moving towards protective legislation for turtles in Florida, concerns remain, since 25 turtle farmers in Florida will continue to be allowed to harvest an unlimited number of wild turtles as “broodstock” until 2011.
“The appetite for turtles in Asia remains insatiable and we have evidenced the exploitation of millions of wild turtles reaped from the South, on a scale that is comparable the buffalo slaughters of the 1800s,” said Chris Jones, a conservation attorney representing the groups that asked the Commission to prohibit turtle harvest. “Each year thousands of turtles are taken from the wild and stockpiled by turtle farmers under the auspices of broodstock. While we commend the Commission’s efforts to protect turtles in Florida, unlimited collection for broodstock is a gaping loophole that will continue to threaten turtle populations.”
PCB bioaccumulation levels found in some snapping turtles exceeded consumption thresholds by 300 percent.
The petitions and background information on the commercial harvest of freshwater turtles can be found on the Center for Biological Diversity’s Web site at:
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with 220,000 members and online activists dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org