DNR Receives Approval For Diamondback Terrapin Conservation Regulations - Southern Maryland Headline News

DNR Receives Approval For Diamondback Terrapin Conservation Regulations

New Regulations took effect August 1

ANNAPOLIS—The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced on August 2 that the Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review Committee of the General Assembly has approved commercial harvesting regulations to conserve Maryland’s diamondback terrapin population. The diamondback terrapin is the only brackish water turtle species in the United States and has ecological, cultural and economic importance to the citizens of Maryland.

“DNR is proud to have developed these regulations that will further support the protection and conservation of one of Maryland’s most unique and important species,” said DNR Secretary C. Ronald Franks. “We would like to thank the Diamondback Terrapin Task Force and our other conservation partners for their valuable assistance during this process.”

The approved regulatory measures, which became effective August 1, are intended to reduce the commercial harvest of diamondback terrapins until a more comprehensive population assessment and management plan is completed. The regulations shorten the commercial season for harvesting diamondback terrapins from 9 months to a 3-month period of August 1 through October 31. This season restriction will provide continued protection during the spawning period and added protection by also prohibiting harvest during the overwintering period when terrapins become more vulnerable to harvest as they congregate in areas known as the hibernacula.

The regulatory measures also include a slot limit for which the harvest of diamondback terrapins smaller than 4 inches and larger than 7 inches is prohibited. The 4- to 7- inch slot limit is designed to protect and conserve reproducing female terrapins, a crucial component in the population dynamics of terrapins. Unlike striped bass and blue crabs, which mature early in life and are capable of producing millions of eggs annually, diamondback terrapins have a late maturity schedule (8 to 13 years of age) and produce few eggs, between 13 and 39, annually. The protection of large female diamondback terrapins should significantly increase their annual reproductive potential in the coming years.

“The scientific community is pleased with these regulations and feel they are an important step towards improved terrapin conservation and management,” said Willem Roosenburg, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and a Terrapin Researcher at Ohio University. “We applaud the efforts of DNR to address the concerns of the 2001 Diamondback Terrapin Task Force.”

In addition, commercial fishermen who want to harvest diamondback terrapins must now obtain a permit from DNR in advance. Anyone commercially harvesting diamondback terrapins is subject to mandatory reporting. This new permit requirement will improve the quality of data obtained from the commercial fishery, and facilitate future assessments and management decisions.

Though these regulations focus on reducing the commercial harvest of diamondback terrapins, there is strong recognition that the diamondback terrapin faces significant threats due to habitat loss. Sandy beach habitat is essential for nesting, and near-shore estuarine marshes provide necessary habitat for juvenile refuge and feeding. The loss and degradation of shoreline habitat significantly affects the ability for terrapins to nest successfully, and has resulted in increased predation of nests and hatchlings. The protection of sandy beach and near-shore habitat is critical to the conservation of diamondback terrapins. In addition, terrapins can be drowned by swimming into recreational crab pots in the tributaries. Waterfront owners should be reminded to use non-structural shoreline protection methods to provide beach habitat and use the mandatory turtle excluder devices in recreational crab pots.

The U. S. Geological Survey is conducting a survey of terrapins Bay-wide that will provide better biological information on the status of populations in various areas. The Department is also working to develop a management plan for diamondback terrapins. If necessary, this work and the improved reporting information will enable managers to make regional adjustments in future regulations.


DNR Submits Regulatory Proposal For Conservation Measures Of The Diamondback Terrapin

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