Would Limit Collection of Common Snapping, Painted, Softshell Turtles
Common snapping turtle photo by Dakota L.
DES MOINES, Iowa—(ENEWSPF)–July 28, 2016. Iowa wildlife officials proposed today to restrict collection and killing of four species of wild turtles. The regulations, if finalized, would impose seasons, daily bag limits and possession limits for common snapping turtles, painted turtles, spiny softshells and smooth softshells.
“It’s great that Iowa is finally clamping down on exploitation of its turtles,” said Collette Adkins, a senior attorney at the Center, which in 2009 sought a ban on commercial turtle collecting in Iowa. “The new proposals are a welcome step, but a complete ban on commercial trapping is needed to fully protect turtles.”
Iowa currently allows year-round commercial collection of the four turtle species covered under the new proposal without any daily bag or possession limits. The proposed regulations protect the four turtles during their peak mating season by prohibiting commercial collection prior to July 1. But year-round recreational collection of common snappers is still allowed.
The state’s proposal also sets daily bag and possession limits with a total possession limit of 90 turtles caught for commercial purposes. In addition, egg-laying females are protected during most of their nesting season through a prohibition on harvest within 100 yards of a river or a stream between July 1 and July 15.
More than 2 million wild-caught, live turtles are exported from the United States each year to supply food and medicinal markets in Asia, where native turtle populations have already been depleted by soaring consumption. Adult turtles are also taken from the wild to breed hatchlings for the international pet trade. Large adults, females in particular, are the most valuable and therefore a primary target of commercial trappers. Yet such trapping can cause population declines even in some of the most common freshwater turtles.
“We’re so glad that states across the country are now restricting turtle slaughter,” said Adkins. “Turtle trappers in the United States are catching and exporting millions of wild freshwater turtles every year, devastating populations that are already suffering from a lot of other threats, like habitat loss, water pollution and road mortality.”
House File 2357, signed by Gov. Terry Branstad earlier this year, instructed the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to adopt rules establishing commercial and recreational seasons and daily catch limits on turtles. The state agency will consider a complete ban on commercial turtle trapping following the 5-year study also mandated by the new law. Many surrounding Midwest states have determined their turtle populations can only be sustainably managed by banning all commercial collection (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois and Indiana).
The United States is a turtle biodiversity hotspot, home to more types of turtles than any other country in the world. As part of a campaign to protect this rich natural heritage, the Center in 2008 and 2009 petitioned Iowa and other states with unrestricted commercial turtle collection to improve harvest regulations. In 2009 Florida responded by banning almost all commercial collection of freshwater turtles from public and private waters; in 2012 Georgia approved state rules regulating the commercial collection of turtles; and Alabama completely banned commercial collection.
In response to a 2011 Center petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May added four turtles — including common snapping turtles, smooth softshell turtles and spiny softshell turtles that are found in Iowa — to a list called “CITES Appendix III.” Trade in Appendix III species requires an export permit and documentation that the animal was caught or acquired in compliance with the law, allowing the U.S. to closely monitor trade. The animals must also be shipped using methods designed to prevent cruel treatment.
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.