Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Diamondback Terrapins

There is a proposed ban on the commercial harvesting of diamondback terrapins in New Jersey. These turtles could be on the edge of extinction if more measures are not taken to protect them.

In 2013, the Fish and Wildlife Service alerted the state that it had discovered several harvesters had illegally trapped 3,522 adult terrapins from South Jersey marshes for sale to an aquaculture facility in Maryland for breeding.

This medium-size turtle is the only species in the world that lives exclusively in brackish waters with some salinity. It has a patterned brown, black, and sometimes orange and yellow carapace.

They are vulnerable to overharvesting because they "brumate," or hibernate in the mud, at shallow depths, in large clusters during the winters. Commercial harvesters currently are permitted to collect them by hand in New Jersey, but wildlife investigators found many terrapins were raked from the marshy bottom by illegal harvesters using crab dredges and were then scooped into nets.

After the discovery of the illegal harvesting, the Fish and Wildlife Service recommended the state "immediately close the season . . . and begin to develop a longer term solution," the DEP said. The season this year was curtailed in January.

The federal government classifies the terrapin, known as Malaclemys terrapin, as a species of "special concern" and the majority of the states where the terrapins reside have already imposed complete bans or strict controls. Maryland has prohibited all harvesting since 2007, and Delaware places a limit of four terrapins per day during its designated season. Some states, including Rhode Island, have declared the terrapin an endangered species. New Jersey and New York are the last to take action on the terrapins.


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