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FWC approves diamondback terrapin conservation measures

Flickr link: https://www.flickr.com/gp/myfwcmedia/ojBj4p

At its December meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved regulation changes in an effort to further diamondback terrapin conservation.

Throughout their range, diamondback terrapin populations are in decline due to a variety of issues including habitat loss, unsustainable collection from the wild due to growing popularity in the global pet market, predation and road mortality. Because of overlapping habitat, there is also a potential for terrapins to be accidentally killed in blue crab traps.

Beginning March 1, 2022, the collection of diamondback terrapins from the wild will be prohibited with exception of collection for scientific research with a permit. Also, people who have diamondback terrapins as pets before March 1, 2022, may legally keep these animals but must obtain a no-cost permit. The Commission also directed staff to explore options regarding captive breeding of diamondback terrapins, including morphs such as albinos, and bring that topic back to a future Commission meeting.

In addition, by March 1, 2023, all recreational blue crab traps will be required to have rigid funnel openings no larger than 2 x 6 inches at the narrowest point or 2 x 6-inch bycatch reduction devices (BRD) installed.

BRDs can reduce incidental terrapin mortality by keeping terrapins from entering crab traps and are intended to have little impact on blue crab catch.

For more information, including the December 2021 Commission meeting presentation, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings.”

Diamondback terrapins are medium-sized turtles that live in brackish water habitats statewide, including salt marshes, barrier islands, mangrove swamps, tidal creeks and rivers. They eat a variety of foods including snails, crabs, clams, mussels, worms, fish and plants. Five subspecies occur in Florida, three of which can be found nowhere else in the world. More information on diamondback terrapins can be found at MyFWC.com/Terrapin.

For more information on these diamondback terrapin regulation changes, visit MyFWC.com/FreshwaterTurtles.

For recreational blue crab trap regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Blue Crab” under the “Crabs, Lobster and other Shellfish.”