Rapid decline of diamondback terrapins (N.J.)

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Cowboy_Ken

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PLEASE take a couple of minutes to read important following article and at the end be sure to go to (http://nj.gov/dep/rules/comments/) and leave your comments. Our Diamondback terrapins are declining at an alarming rate and there are some out there that have no problem harvesting them until they are gone. Whether for the pet trade or the food market, this has to stop! We are the ones that care about turtles, we need to be their voice! PLEASE help put an end to this now, send your comments. http://www.northjersey.com/news/nj-state-news/terrapin-season-ban-proposed-1.1599650?page=allPlease share with anyone you can!

Rapid decline of diamondback terrapins in Meadowlands (N.J.) should lead to ban on harvesting.

By James M. O’ Neil, The Record.

The diamondback terrapin — the only turtle species to live in the Hackensack River, the Meadowlands and New Jersey's other coastal marshes — has seen such a serious population decline because of harvesting that the Christie administration has proposed an indefinite ban on harvesting of the species.

The move comes after two successive years when the state's annual harvest season from November through March has been cut short by the Department of Environmental Protection.

The harvesting has been on the rise because of increasing demand for terrapins as a food delicacy in Asia.

"This is very welcome news," said Jack Cover, a terrapin expert and general curator at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. "While some states don't have a lot of terrapin habitat, New Jersey has a lot of rich coastal habitat for terrapins, and if there's any place you could capture large numbers of them, it's New Jersey."

Terrapins play an important role along New Jersey's coastline, from the Meadowlands to Barnegat Bay and Delaware Bay, feeding on snails that can overgraze marsh grasses, which can reduce coastal areas to barren mudflats.


"At this time of year especially you see them all over the Meadowlands, up and down the Hackensack on mudflats at low tide," said Bill Sheehan of the Hackensack Riverkeeper. "It's a keystone species in our coastal marshes, and they're very photogenic."

The DEP said that terrapins, considered a species of concern in New Jersey, are a delicacy in some Asian cuisines.

These countries, having depleted their own native Asian turtle populations, now rely more on imports from the United States. The turtles are used in soups, but also are seen as having medicinal qualities and even helping to ensure a long life, Cover said. And while turtles are a status symbol to serve, more Chinese are now able to afford them, increasing demand further, he said.

There were 754 shipments of turtles from the United States between 2000 and last year, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Nearly 80 percent of wild caught shipments were exported to Hong Kong, followed by nearly 8 percent to Taiwan, and 5 percent to Japan.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated in 2013 that diamondback terrapins sold for between $35 and $100 each, with an average price of $80. Individual hatchlings sold in Hong Kong pet markets for up to $100.

In the past, harvesting was limited in New Jersey, conducted by small numbers of harvesters using hand methods. But in 2013 a single harvester using a commercial crabbing dredge took more than 3,500 terrapins from two locations in southern New Jersey and sold them to a Maryland aquaculture facility that raises the turtles for overseas markets.

"That incident was really a wake-up call, making us realize just how vulnerable this species had become," said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Chanda. "We have plenty of observational and anecdotal evidence that the species has been in decline. We need to take a step back and get a better handle on the measures that will be needed to restore this species."

Terrapins live in salt marshes and tidal areas from Cape Cod to the Florida Keys, and west along the Gulf Coast into Texas.

New Jersey, New York and Louisiana are the only three states left that allow a commercial terrapin harvest, Cover said. Earlier this year, New York State's Department of Conservation said it anticipated proposing to close its harvest season. Florida allows a personal harvest of one terrapin a day, and Delaware allows four per day during its harvest season. Eight Atlantic Coast states prohibit all harvest of terrapins.

The New Jersey proposal says that "the harvest of adult diamondback terrapins reduces populations that are already at risk due to predation, motor vehicle mortality, and habitat alteration. Therefore, closing the diamondback terrapin season will help to curtail the excessive adult mortality."

Cover said a drop in population cannot easily be replaced because it takes many years for a terrapin to reach sexual maturity. Adding to the pressure on the species is that they generally have a low birthrate and a low rate of survival to adulthood. Only about 20 percent of hatchlings successfully make the journey from nesting sites to their salt marsh habitat. The hatchlings are subject to overheating, drying out and predation from raccoons, foxes, gulls and crows.

"We know that this species, which holds a special place in the hearts of residents of coastal areas as well as visitors, faces many threats and has been declining in numbers for many years now," state DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a statement announcing the proposal. "Banning all harvesting is the right thing to do to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy seeing diamondback terrapins in the wild."

Sheehan said that in recent years, he has come across nets people have left to trap the turtles in the Meadowlands. Given that they eat the smaller fish and crabs in the river, and those species are known to bio-accumulate some of the toxic pollutants that still plague the Hackensack sediment, the turtles themselves probably should not be harvested and eaten by people, Sheehan said.

"It's very different from harvesting terrapins down around Stone Harbor or other areas along the Jersey Shore," he said.

Cover agreed. "They definitely would bio-accumulate those pollutants," he said.

A few years ago, as Sheehan was getting ready for one of the Hackensack Riverkeeper ecocruises, which start in Secaucus, he saw a man pull up with a boat filled with about 50 to 100 traps.

The man told Sheehan he was going to harvest terrapin, and showed him the permit he had from the state Division of Fish and Wildlife to do so in the lower Hackensack and Passaic.

"These are known to be contaminated waters — it didn't make sense to me to harvest terrapins from this area," Sheehan said.

When the man wheeled his boat down to the water, however, it wouldn't start. "I thought it must have been some divine intervention," Sheehan said.

The DEP will hold a public hearing on the proposed harvest ban on June 13 at 6 p.m. at the Stafford Township Municipal Building in Manahawkin. The agency will also be collecting public comments on the proposal for the next 60 days at http://nj.gov/dep/rules/comments/ .
 

Cowboy_Ken

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No judgement call here, just a thought that bounced around my brain cells. Folks, as well as liking this thread, (which is great for my ego) could y'all please make a clear, thought out comment and submit it? Action is what we need here, right? Thanks so much in advance.
Ken
 
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