Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 18, 2018

Contact: Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950,

Arkansas Proposes Curbing Commercial Wild Turtle Trapping, Orders Study

Protections Would Limit Some Killing, But More Restrictions Needed

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.— Responding to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and several Arkansas-based environmental organizations, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission today proposed regulations to restrict commercial trapping of wild freshwater turtles and study the effect of commercial trapping on wild populations.

The new regulations would ban commercial harvest in the Gulf Coastal Plain and the St. Francis River in Greene and Clay counties. The rules would also ban the harvest of the razorback musk turtle across the state and clarify permitting and reporting requirements.

The commission will conduct a three-year study from 2019 to 2021 to determine the effect of commercial trapping on wild turtle populations in the Delta region, where the majority of trapping occurs. During the study period, the sale of commercial turtle harvest and dealer permits will be capped at 150 permits per year.

“This is a much-needed step toward protecting Arkansas’s turtles and understanding the grim toll of commercial trapping, but stronger safeguards are critical,” said Elise Bennett, a Center attorney dedicated to protecting rare reptiles and amphibians. “Tens of thousands of turtles are taken from the wild each year. Arkansas needs to fully ban this unsustainable practice once and for all.”

Right now trappers can legally collect unlimited numbers of 14 types of turtles from roughly half the state to sell domestically or export to foreign food, pet and medicinal markets. The new regulations would still allow commercial collection of 13 types of turtles, but with additional geographic limitations.

Scientists have repeatedly documented that freshwater turtles cannot sustain any significant level of wild collection without population-level impacts and declines. One study of common snapping turtles demonstrated that a modest harvest of 10 percent per year for 15 years could result in a 50 percent reduction in population size. And an Arkansas study found that turtles from populations in heavily harvested areas were significantly smaller than those from areas where harvesting is not permitted.

Conservative records show that more than 1.3 million wild turtles were harvested from Arkansas’s waters over the past 13 years. Most of these were large, sexually mature turtles important to the survival of wild populations.

“We’re confident the commission will reach the same conclusion through its proposed study that others across the country have already reached, that commercial trapping of wild turtles is simply not sustainable,” said Bennett. “We’ll continue to urge the commission toward a full ban.”

A growing number of states have already dedicated themselves to protecting wild turtles. In February Missouri banned commercial turtle trapping, and in August Texas followed suit. In 2017 New York ended commercial trapping of diamondback turtles, Nevada halted commercial reptile collection, and Iowa reined in trapping with new harvest limits. In the past decade, Florida and Alabama completely banned commercial turtle trapping, and Georgia and Mississippi approved stronger regulations on the industry.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is now accepting public comments on the proposed commercial trapping regulations.

Common snapping turtle

Common snapping turtle photo by Dakota L. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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