Van Drew Asks Sea Isle City, Ocean City & Upper Twp to Address Diamondback Terrapin Deaths

Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May and Cumberland) speaks at a news conference to Urge Horizon and Children’s Hospital to Come to Agreement.

Requests Local Measures to Protect Turtle Species

(1st LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT) – Senator Jeff Van Drew (Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic) yesterday sent a letter to the mayors of Sea Isle City, Ocean City and Upper Township requesting that they take action to protect Diamondback Terrapins from being killed by motor vehicles on local roadways. Senator Van Drew sponsored a law signed last year that designated diamondback terrapins – a species of turtles which are native to New Jersey – as a nongame indigenous species and made it illegal to catch them in New Jersey.

Senator Van Drew noted that for anyone driving along the major routes in the towns, “it would be hard not to notice the corpses of crushed turtles littering the roadway.” He said the deaths are largely caused by female diamondback terrapins crossing roadways looking for places to lay their eggs during mating season that generally takes place May through July.

“This leads to high number of female terrapins and their unhatched babies being needlessly killed,” wrote Senator Van Drew. “This could all be avoidable if as a community we made an effort to increase awareness through street signs during the high traffic times of mating season and also with the installation of preventative measures such as corrugated tubing, fencing or a barrier of some sort to stop the turtles from entering the roadway.

“I am asking that we make a worthwhile effort to protect these turtles so that they can continue to contribute to our ecosystem and future tourists and visitors will get to enjoy seeing them on their visits…Families of the Jersey Shore and families coming to visit should not have to see the carnage of dead turtle bodies squashed into the roadway as they enter their shore towns,” Van Drew wrote.

The senator sent the letter after he and his Assembly colleagues, Assemblymen Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land, heard from individuals and organizations concerned about the lack of protection for diamondback terrapins and the turtle population at large. He also noted that a petition calling for protective fences for the turtles, started by Kelly Hanna – a local resident and Marine and Environment Biology and Policy Major at Monmouth University – has garnered over 1,500 total signatures, and of those about 65% or 1,000 signatures are from district residents.

 The full letter is below.

 

August 8, 2017

 

The Honorable Leonard Desiderio

Mayor of Sea Isle City

233 John F. Kennedy Boulevard

Sea Isle City, NJ 08243

 

The Honorable Jay Gillian

Mayor of Ocean City

861 Asbury Avenue

Ocean City, NJ 08226

 

The Honorable Richard Palombo

Mayor of Upper Township

P.O. Box 205

Tuckahoe, NJ 08250

 

Dear Mayors Desiderio, Gillian, and Palombo:

I am writing to you today in regards to what I and many consider to be a travesty along our coastal roadways. I along with Assemblymen Andrzejczak and Land have met and spoke with a number of people and groups concerning the lack of protection for diamondback terrapins and the turtle population at large. If anyone has driven along some of the major routes going into our shore towns, such as Roosevelt Boulevard going into Ocean City and Sea Isle Boulevard into Sea Isle City, it would be hard not to notice the corpses of crushed turtles littering the roadway. As ecotourism is a major part of our economy, it is past time we increase our effort to protecting these animals.

As you may know the general mating of diamondback terrapins is May through July and during this period the females have a tendency to cross the roads looking for places to lay their eggs. This leads to high number of female terrapins and their unhatched babies being needlessly killed. Understanding that some of these deaths are caused by individuals who go out of their way to hit the terrapins, a vast majority are due to a lack of tourists not knowing what to do if they see a turtle crossing the street, it being too dangerous to slow down to stop, and also a lack of awareness. This could all be avoidable if as a community we made an effort to increase awareness through street signs during the high traffic times of mating season and also with the installation of preventative measures such as corrugated tubing, fencing or a barrier of some sort to stop the turtles from entering the roadway. Though I am sure there is no one perfect solution and that we can’t save all of the terrapins, but I am sure that we could be doing more to protect this species.

I am asking that we make a worthwhile effort to protect these turtles so that they can continue to contribute to our ecosystem and future tourists and visits will get to enjoy seeing them on their visits. Signs alerting drivers of the potential turtle crossing in designated areas along with fencing or a barrier of some sort along portions of the roadway should be relatively easy solutions to this issue. Families of the Jersey Shore and families coming to visit should not have to see the carnage of dead turtle bodies squashed into the roadway as they enter their shore towns. Barriers or fencing would not need to be overly cumbersome and would only need to be about a foot or so high to prevent the turtles from crossing. Kelly Hanna, a local resident and Marine and Environment Biology and Policy Major at Monmouth University, has started a petition (https://www.change.org/p/cape-may-county-create-turtle-fences-in-cape-may-county) which received over 1,000 signatures in the first 48 hours! The Petition has garnered over 1,500 total signatures, which of those about 65% or 1,000 signatures are from district residents. This is not an issue that only a few people care about; the petition has been signed by both residents and visitors past, future, and yearly.

With all of this being said, I am asking that the appropriate research, time and resources be put into this issue so that a reasonable resolution can be found and we can protect these animals and our ecosystem. My assembly colleagues and I have sponsored and passed legislation designating the diamondback terrapins as a nongame indigenous species in New Jersey, and I have attached a copy of the law signed by the governor for your review and information as well.

All the best,

 

Jeff Van Drew

Senator, First District

 

CC:

Members of Sea Isle City Council

Sea Isle City Clerk

Members of Ocean City Council

Ocean City Clerk

Members of Upper Township Committee

Upper Township Clerk