Freshwater turtle conservation measures proposed

March 16, 2009

Florida softshell turtle (FWC photo by Kevin Enge)
Florida softshell turtle (FWC photo by Kevin Enge)

FWC staff proposes the country’s strongest conservation measures for freshwater turtles

After months of reviewing and discussing the issue of freshwater turtle harvest in Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff will present a draft rule at the Commission meeting in Tallahassee on April 15.

FAQs and other turtle information
“Staff is proposing a draft rule that represents the most comprehensive set of protections and conservation measures for freshwater turtles in the United States,” said Tim Breault, the FWC’s director of Habitat and Species Conservation. “Few places in North America have the rich diversity of turtles that we have here in Florida, and this proposed rule ensures their long-term survival.”

The draft rule would ban the commercial take or sale of wild freshwater turtles. The draft rule also would prohibit taking turtles from the wild that are listed on Florida’s imperiled species list, as well as species that look similar to the imperiled species, which include common snapping turtles and cooters. In addition, the collection of eggs would be prohibited. Individuals would be allowed to take one freshwater turtle per day per person from the wild for noncommercial use. The transport of more than one turtle per day would be prohibited.

Some turtle farms currently depend on the collection of wild freshwater turtles. Under the proposed draft rule, turtle farms, under a tightly controlled process, would be allowed to collect turtles for breeding purposes for a two-year period. However, staff is proposing a review of this process by 2011, and turtle collection for farms will end if no further action is taken by the Commission after the review.

The FWC has an open, public process for developing rules.  Commissioners will consider this draft rule at the April 15 Commission meeting. If approved, the rule would be advertised for a final hearing at the June Commission meeting in Crystal River.  The public may submit comments to the FWC any time during this rulemaking process and may testify at Commission meetings.  The public may send comments on the draft rule to turtles@MyFWC.com.