Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 9, 2022


Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950,

15 Turtle Experts Back Florida’s Continued Ban on Breeding Diamondback Terrapins for Profit

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— A group of 15 leading turtle experts sent a letter today urging Florida wildlife commissioners to maintain rules that prohibit for-profit breeding of native diamondback terrapin turtles.

The scientists’ letter responds to a recent Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff recommendation that current rules prohibiting commercial terrapin breeding remain unchanged. Overturning the longstanding rule would ramp up risks to native wild terrapins through collection pressure, increased demand and the potential to contribute to illegal turtle trade, experts say.

The agency recommendation followed a request from commercial reptile breeders to allow for-profit breeding operations. Captive breeding of diamondback terrapins has been prohibited since 2006.

“It’s absolutely crucial for Florida wildlife officials to maintain these longstanding protections for our wild terrapins,” said Elise Bennett, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Independent scientists and agency experts agree that allowing for-profit breeding poses too great a risk to our wild terrapins. Instead, the commission should focus on proven conservation measures to help secure a future for these wild jewels of our coasts.”

In today’s letter, the scientists explain that commercial captive breeding has no conservation value for Florida’s terrapins and instead risks increasing threats to the species. They cite concerns about increased poaching and trafficking and negative genetic effects from mixing different wild populations as reasons to maintain current rules prohibiting commercial breeding.

The wildlife commission’s Division of Law Enforcement reports that Florida’s turtles — including terrapins — are in high demand globally, driving illegal trafficking in the state. Allowing captive breeding of turtles in their native range creates opportunities to launder wild-caught turtles through breeding facilities and presents other challenges to enforcing the law.

Captive breeding of diamondback terrapins is on the agenda for the commission’s Nov. 30 meeting, and the agency is currently accepting public comments.

The IUCN Red List ranks the diamondback terrapin’s global status as vulnerable and describes its population trend as decreasing. Threats to the species include habitat destruction and degradation, road mortality, crab-pot mortality, sea-level rise caused by global climate change, pollution, boat strikes, predation, collection for commercial and personal purposes, and inadequate regulatory measures to address these threats.

The Center for Biological Diversity, along with the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust and Diamondback Terrapin Working Group, petitioned for enhanced protections for Florida’s diamondback terrapins in 2020. In 2021 Florida wildlife commissioners approved new conservation measures to help protect terrapins from wild collection and drowning in recreational blue crab traps. The agency committed to study threats from commercial blue crab traps.


The diamondback terrapin is known for its stunning diamond-patterned shell and speckled skin. It lives in coastal marshes, tidal creeks, mangroves and other estuarine habitats where it primarily feeds on snails, clams, mussels and small crabs. The terrapin is potentially a keystone species in salt marshes and mangroves, helping to maintain the ecological health of those ecosystems.

Diamondback terrapins are found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Massachusetts to Texas — the only turtles in the world that live exclusively in coastal estuaries.

There are currently seven recognized subspecies of diamondback terrapin, and Florida is home to five (three of which only live in the state). Florida also has the most coastal habitat of all the states in the species’ range.

Diamondback terrapin. Please credit: George L. Heinrich. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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