Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 28, 2017

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

New York State Proposes End to Commercial Terrapin Harvest

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

ALBANY, N.Y.— In response to advocacy from the Center for Biological Diversity, turtle experts and other conservation organizations, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation today proposed a rule to end commercial harvest of diamondback terrapins. If the rule is finalized, New York will join nearly every other state in the terrapin's range in putting an end to the unsustainable practice.

“I'm so pleased to see New York take this critical step toward protecting diamondback terrapins,” said Elise Bennett, a Center attorney dedicated to protecting rare reptiles and amphibians. “The deck is stacked against terrapins, but taking trapping off the table may give these turtles a fighting chance.”

Diamondback terrapins, which are found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, are the only North American turtles that live exclusively along coasts, where fresh water meets the sea. Terrapins 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 the terrapins are struggling against threats from habitat loss, entanglement in fishing gear, vehicle strikes, pollution and overcollection.

In December 2016 more than 60 scientists signed a letter in support of a proposed rule to end the commercial harvest of the terrapins, explaining that the practice harms terrapins' precarious populations. 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. The proposed rule would close the open season on terrapins and add them to a list of native turtles that may not be harvested.

“Diamondback terrapins are exceptional treasures, more precious than their namesake gems,” said Bennett. “So it's important to safeguard these turtles for future generations.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is accepting public comments on today's proposal until June 9. The final rule would become effective May 5, 2018.

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 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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