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Van Drew Bill to Protect Diamondback Terrapins Clears Committee

Senator Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May and Cumberland, listens to testimony during the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee meeting.

Would Prohibit Harvesting of Turtles


TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew to protect diamondback terrapins, a species of turtle native to New Jersey that has become at-risk due to over-harvesting and other concerns, was approved today by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. The bill would prohibit the harvesting of the turtles.


“Diamondback terrapins are a unique species found in New Jersey’s coastal areas and, unfortunately, face a real risk of population reduction. Over-harvesting is a major concern as well as man-made threats in and around their habitats. Designating these specific turtles as non-hunting species is the right thing to do to help protect them for years to come,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland).


New Jersey is one of the few states that still allows harvesting of diamondback terrapins, according to a report in the Press of Atlantic City. For the last two years, the harvesting season for diamondback terrapins was cut short by the Department of Environmental Protection due to concerns about excessive harvesting. In 2014, more than 3,500 terrapins were taken from two South Jersey locations and provided to an out of state facility that raises them for overseas markets. More than 14,000 offspring of the adult terrapins were then exported to Asia, the DEP said.


Habitat loss and road mortality pose major threats to the health of the population.  Each year, hundreds of terrapins are killed by motor vehicles, particularly in summer months when females actively search for suitable nest sites.


The bill, S-1625, would designate the diamondback terrapin as a nongame indigenous species, subject to laws, rules and regulations according to the “The Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act.” Under the bill, it would no longer be legal to catch or take diamondback terrapins in New Jersey. It would also require that the Commissioner of Environmental Protection conduct biological and ecological data research on the State’s diamondback terrapin population and determine measures to ensure the conservation of the species’ population.


Diamondback Terrapins inhabit the State’s coastal salt marshes and estuaries along the AtlanticCoast and Delaware Bay. The legislation would help to encourage conservation of the species and its habitats. The bill was approved with a vote of 5-0. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.