Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 14, 2016

Contact:  Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950,
Dr. Russell Burke, (516) 463-7272,

More Than 60 Scientists Support New York's Proposal to End Terrapin Harvest

Coastal Turtles Threatened by Habitat Loss, Entanglement in Fishing Gear, Harvest Pressure

ALBANY, N.Y.— The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation today received a letter signed by more than 60 scientists supporting the state’s proposal to end the harvest of diamondback terrapins. Recognizing declines in terrapin populations and increasing pressures from commercial harvest for specialized markets, the Department has suggested permanently closing the terrapin hunting season and solicited comments.

“New York terrapins face many threats, and the legal harvest is an unnecessary addition to that list,” said Dr. Russell Burke, Donald E. Axinn distinguished professor in ecology and conservation at Hofstra University. “Terrapins are keystone species in their brackish water marsh habitats, a charismatic part of the natural heritage of all New Yorkers. It’s time to stop catching and selling this species and take this step toward restoring their populations.”

Diamondback terrapins are the only North American turtles that live exclusively along the coast where fresh water meets the sea, ranging along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Terrapins play a key role in coastal ecosystems because they eat salt marsh periwinkle snails, which can become overpopulated and devour marsh grasses that protect shorelines and sustain wildlife. But the animals are struggling against threats from habitat loss, entanglement in fishing gear, vehicle strikes, pollution and overcollection.

New York currently allows trappers with diamondback terrapin licenses to take unlimited numbers of terrapins during a nine-month open season from August through April. Almost every state in the terrapin’s range has put a stop to terrapin trapping, including, most recently, New Jersey.

“The experts agree — trapping is bad news for terrapins,” said Elise Bennett, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity dedicated to protecting rare reptiles and amphibians. “I’m hopeful that New York will finally join the rest of its coastal neighbors that have already put a stop to this unwise practice.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking informal feedback on its idea to close the diamondback terrapin hunting season. Comments may be submitted by email to; written letter to NYSDEC, Bureau of Wildlife, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754; or through this Center action alert. Comments are due by Dec. 23, 2016.

Diamondback terrapin
Photo by Ryan Hagerty, USFWS. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

More press releases