FWC Proposes Blue Crab Trap Changes To Protect Diamondback Terrapins
Diamondback Terrapins are edging their way toward the endangered species list. Some of the reasons include the creatures getting run over, sea-level rise, and habitat loss. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the turtle as vulnerable to extinction due to its declining population. Michael Sole is a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) member. He says the state needs to step in.
“Candidly, it is essential that we take action to ensure that the Diamondback Terrapin is not listed as a threatened or endangered species,” Sole says.
The FWC says one way to help could be changing the rules about allowable crab traps. Experts say if turtles are lured into certain traps, they can get stuck and drown. The Commission is considering a change to require traps that have a smaller opening or make it harder for the turtles to get in. But the proposal is facing pushback from blue crab fishers who say buying new traps would strain their businesses.
"It’s really going to hurt the industry and may make it not worth doing," Jason Rudd from Crystal River says.
He called into a public comments section of an FWC meeting to give testimony about the proposal. Annie Sully also weighed in. Sully says she’s from Key Largo and has been a commercial blue crabber for more than 25 years.
“We’re kind of being singled out as the blue crabbers are the ones who are the cause and the problem for the mortalities of these turtles. We’ve been crabbing for over 25 years, my husband and I and all over the state of Florida. And we’ve encountered one turtle in 25 years. So, we’re not seeing them. We’re not the problem,” Sully says.
FWC’s proposal would also ban taking Diamondback Terrapins from the wild to keep as pets. Already, people are limited to keeping two Diamondback Terrapins at a time. And selling wild terrapins and taking eggs from the wild is banned. Under the potential change, residents would need to get a permit to keep their current turtles as pets.
The FWC’s proposal has gotten the green light for moving forward but hasn't yet been approved. A final public hearing is slated for May 2021.