DNR Submits Regulatory Proposal For Conservation Measures Of The Diamondback Terrapin - Southern Maryland Headline News

DNR Submits Regulatory Proposal For Conservation Measures Of The Diamondback Terrapin

ANNAPOLIS--The Department of Natural Resources has submitted a regulatory proposal to the Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review Committee (AELR) to enhance conservation management of the diamondback terrapin commercial fishery under the authority of Natural Resources Article, "4-903, Annotated Code of Maryland." The proposal is based on the findings and recommendations of the Maryland Diamondback Terrapin Task Force Report, and is consistent with requirements specified in House Bill 980 of 2006.

Though the bill does not become effective until October 1, 2006, DNR is taking the initiative in moving forward with these proposed conservation regulations. The proposed regulatory measures include a change in size limits and season, along with the creation of a permitted commercial fishery with mandatory reporting measures. This regulatory action will complement other actions such as protection of spawning beaches and requiring turtle excluder devices in recreational crab pots in order to protect and stabilize populations statewide.

DNR will hold a public meeting to present and discuss these regulatory changes on Monday, July 10, at 7:00 p.m., in C-1 conference room at the Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, Maryland.

If you would like to receive a copy of the emergency regulation or make comments, please contact Sarah Widman or Harley Speir, Fisheries Service, B-2, Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, Maryland 21401, or call (410) 260-8260, or fax to (410) 260-8278 or email to swidman@dnr.state.md.us. Comments must be received by July 17, 2006.

Chesapeake diamondbacks are distinguished by diamond-shaped, concentric rings on the scutes of their upper shells. They are predators whose preference for unpolluted saltwater make them indicators of healthy marsh and river systems. In winter, they hibernate underwater in mud. Around late May, diamondback terrapin emerge to mate, nest, and bask in the sun on coastal dunes or narrow sandy beaches.

Chesapeake colonists ate terrapin prepared Native-American fashion, roasted whole in live coals. Abundant and easy to catch, terrapin were so ample that landowners often fed their slaves and indentured servants a staple diet of terrapin meat. Later, in the 19th century, the turtle was appreciated as gourmet food, especially in a stew laced with cream and sherry. Subsequently, tremendous retail demand and heavy fishing of the terrapin nearly depleted its supply, and protective laws were enacted.

In 1891, some 89,000 lbs. of terrapin were harvested from Maryland waters. With few exceptions, annual harvests since 1956 have remained below 11,000 lbs.

According to the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies, "the diamondback terrapin is faced by a number of threats: destruction of its coastal marsh habitat; automobiles (that run over turtles crossing the road to lay eggs); boat propellers; and raccoons, muskrats, skunks, and crows that eat the turtle's eggs. While it is doubtful that the diamondback terrapin will ever recover from its decimation for terrapin soup, this fascinating reptile is making a comeback in some areas."

The Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) was made the State reptile and official mascot of the University of Maryland College Park in 1994.


Diamondback Terrapin information  from the Baltimore Aquarium

Diamondback Terrapin information from the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies

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