Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 20, 2017


Elise Bennett, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 755-6950,
Allen Salzberg, New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, HerpDigest, (718) 275-2190,

New York Ends Unsustainable Commercial Terrapin Turtle Harvest

Coastal Turtles Threatened by Habitat Loss, Harvest Pressure

ALBANY, N.Y.— The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation today adopted a rule to end commercial harvest of diamondback terrapins, responding in part to comments from the Center for Biological Diversity, the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, HerpDigest and other turtle experts. The new rule received unanimous public support during the public comment period.

“I’m thrilled New York’s conservation leaders followed the science by ending collection of these beautiful little turtles,” said Elise Bennett, a Center attorney dedicated to protecting rare reptiles and amphibians. “The harvest ban on diamondback terrapins will help this exceptional species survive in New York. And it’ll help protect the health of our coasts for generations.”

Diamondback terrapins, which are found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, are the only North American turtles that live exclusively along the coast where fresh water meets the sea. They play a key role in coastal ecosystems because they eat salt marsh periwinkle snails, which can become overpopulated and devour the marsh grasses that protect shorelines and sustain wildlife.

But terrapins are struggling against threats from habitat loss, accidental capture in crab traps, vehicle strikes, pollution and over-collection. The new rule to end unsustainable commercial collection goes into effect May 5, 2018.

“Congratulations to the New York State DEC for closing the terrapin season,” said Allen Salzberg, conservation committee chair for the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society and editor of HerpDigest. “This allows conservationists concerned with the plight of New York State’s terrapins to concentrate their time and resources on solving the other critical threats to the turtle’s existence.”

In December 2016 more than 60 scientists signed a letter in support of a proposed rule to end the commercial harvest of terrapins, explaining that the practice harms the animals’ precarious populations. New York will now join nearly every other state in the species’ range to end this unsustainable practice.

“Ending harvest of terrapin turtles is an important step forward that brings New York regulations in line with those of most other states and makes it clear that terrapin populations, like those of most other turtles, cannot withstand harvest,” said Dr. Russell Burke, Donald E. Axinn distinguished professor in ecology and conservation at Hofstra University. “We can now focus our efforts on addressing habitat loss and other threats to diamondback terrapins.”

As part of a campaign to protect turtles in the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity has been petitioning states that allow commercial turtle collection to improve regulations. In 2009 Florida responded by banning almost all commercial turtle collection from public and private waters. In 2012 Georgia approved state rules restricting commercial turtle collection, and Alabama completely banned it. Most recently, in Iowa in March, new regulations setting closed seasons and possession limits for commercial turtle trappers went into effect.

Diamonback terrapin

Photo courtesy USFWS. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, Inc., is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the conservation, preservation of habitat, and the promotion of proper husbandry and captive propagation of turtles and tortoises. The Society emphasizes the education of its members and the public in all areas relevant to the appreciation of these unique animals.

HerpDigest is a weekly free electronic newsletter reporting on the latest in reptile and amphibian science and conservation.

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