Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 27, 2018

Contact: Chris Nagano, (916) 765-9097,

Restrictions Sought on Unsustainable Export of America's Imperiled Turtles  

More Than 17 Million Turtles Exported From 2011 to 2016

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today submitted extensive comments asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to seek increased restrictions on the unsustainable export and trade of 15 imperiled turtle species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Turtle traders exported more than 17 million freshwater turtles from the United States between 2011 and 2016. Most are used to supply food and medicinal markets in Asia, where turtle consumption rates have soared and native populations of turtles have already been decimated. 

“The indiscriminate commercial capture and export of millions of our turtles to Asian markets is placing these important animals at serious risk,” said Chris Nagano, senior scientist at the Center. “Alligator snappers and map turtles desperately need strict protections from international trade, so U.S. wildlife officials should seek global safeguards immediately.”

The two alligator snapping turtle and 13 map turtle species are native to the southern, midwestern and northeastern United States and are severely imperiled by trapping and export. Overharvest has caused population declines in almost all the species. 

In response to a 2012 petition from the Center, the two species of alligator snapping turtles and four species of map turtles are under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act in large part because of massive exploitation. 

“The Trump administration should not stand back and watch as these animals are pushed toward extinction,” said Nagano. “Our turtles are already suffering from habitat loss, water pollution and other threats. They just can’t withstand commercial exploitation.”

Alligator snapping turtles and map turtles are currently listed under CITES Appendix III, which requires certain permits or certificates for the international trade of listed species. The Center’s proposal asks that the western alligator snapping turtle, Suwannee alligator snapping turtle and 13 species of map turtles be listed on CITES Appendix II, which would only allow international trade with a permit if it can be shown that the trade would not be detrimental to their survival. CITES-listed species are also subject to mandatory reporting requirements.

In separate comments, the Center also requested that the Fish and Wildlife Service seek increased protections for the polar bear, walrus, narwhal, hippopotamus and several species of sea horses and sea cucumbers. 

The Service sought comments from the public on species that need additional protection under CITES. The agency may propose species for additional protections in preparation for the next CITES meeting of the parties in Sri Lanka in May 2019.

The United States is a turtle biodiversity hotspot, home to more types of turtles than any other country in the world. As part of the Center’s campaign to protect this rich natural heritage, the group petitioned states with unrestricted commercial turtle harvest to improve harvest regulations.

Many states, including Alabama, Florida and Georgia, responded by banning or regulating commercial harvest of freshwater turtles. More recently, Missouri banned commercial collection of wild freshwater turtles and Iowa adopted stricter regulations. In March, Texas proposed banning all commercial turtle harvest.

The Center recently petitioned for a ban on unlimited commercial trapping in Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. The Center has also petitioned to list several species of imperiled freshwater turtles under the Endangered Species Act. Mounting scientific evidence shows that amphibians and reptiles (together called “herpetofauna”) are among the most imperiled species on Earth.

Ubiquitous toxinsglobal warmingnonnative predatorsovercollectionhabitat destruction and disease are key factors leading to demise of amphibians and reptiles in the United States and worldwide.

View more information about the Center’s campaign to stop the herpetofauna extinction crisis.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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