Dozens of Dead Diamondback Terrapins wash up dead at this Jersey Shore beach. Here's why.


Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Nov 18, 2011
Location (City and/or State)
Suburban-life in Salem, Oregon
Dozens of Dead Diamondback Terrapins wash up dead at this Jersey Shore beach. Here's why.

Dead diamondback terrapins on the Sea Isle City Beach near 11th Street on Memorial Day morning, turtle2jpg-8059a2b7db84a955.jpg
(Photo courtesy of Steve Ahern)
by Michael Sol Warren, NJ Advance Media for 5/29/18
It was a disturbing scene.

On Memorial Day morning, more than 80 turtles were found dead on the Sea Isle City, washed ashore after being caught in a single crab trap.

"I've been here since 1968, and it's the first time I've seen something like that," said Sea Isle City Beach Patrol Chief Renny Steele.

News of the mass turtle death was first reported on Thursday by Sea Isle News.

The carnage was found on the beach near 11th Street by an unidentified woman, according to Steele. The woman alerted beach patrol to the dead turtles, all diamondback terrapins.

The beach patrol reached out to residents Steve Ahern and Susan Ahern for assistance. Steele said the couple has "made it their goal in life to save the turtles."

"I have to say this is one of the largest, if not the largest, that we've ever come across," Steve Ahern said. "So it was a pretty rough morning to see all of that."

The turtles were out of the trap when found, Steele said, with 68 in one cluster and the rest scattered nearby. Steve Ahern said they found no surviving turtles.

Since the turtles had not begun decomposing on the beach, its most likely that they drowned recently, Steve Ahern said. The trap that snagged them was large, and both Steele and Ahern said it looks like a commercial crab trap rather than a smaller recreational device.

The crab trap that the turtles were caught in. Photo courtesy of Steve Ahern.
Steele said that they have no way to identify the owner of the trap because it had no markings.

Under a 1998 state law, crab traps set in narrow bodies of water must include terrapin excluder devices on all entrances.

However, excluders are not required for deep water traps, and Steele said he believed this particular trap broke away from a deep-water mooring and floated to shore.

Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said that the state Division of Fish and Wildlife was investigating the turtle deaths.

Ahern stressed that all crab traps should have the excluders installed, noting that the devices are inexpensive and bait shops will often install them for free.

The large number of turtles caught in the trap could be because of the season, Ahern said. Diamondback terrapins are coming ashore in large numbers to nest this time of year.

Diamondback terrapins are not listed as endangered by either the state or the federal government. Ahern said that efforts to study and assess the local terrapin population are ongoing, but he believes that the turtles are struggling.

"Anecdotally, we've seen less terrapins come out to nest and less hatchlings head out of the marsh in the ten years since I've been here," Ahern said.


Well-Known Member
Apr 8, 2016
That's sad. I never thought about something like that happening. I hope it was just a terrible accident and not some someone intentionally put out there.


New Member
Jun 5, 2018
Location (City and/or State)
damn thats terrible. Those poor DBTs


Active Member
Today is my birthday!
Oct 9, 2016
Location (City and/or State)
south Texas
Oh, that makes me so mad! Here in Texas the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has an Abandoned Crab Trap Removal Program, where there is a 10 day fisheries closure every year, during which any crab trap left in the water is pulled and disposed of. Wondering if other states do anything similar??

It does really help, or seems to. Crabbing is a huge fisheries here. There are also studies at the A&M Corpus Christi University on local diamondback populations, but they are incredibly cryptic as far as nesting. They have done some tracking and population sampling, but so far have not found any live nests. The only nests they have found have suffered predation - usually raccoons.