The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) passed a rule on Wednesday that sets new limits for the harvest of freshwater turtles.
The new rule limits the harvest of native Florida freshwater turtles to five per day.
However, fishermen with a commercial license are allowed to harvest 20 Florida soft-shell turtles per day.
The new rules have been passed to protect freshwater turtle populations while the FWC develops a long-term comprehensive strategy for sustainable use of amphibian and reptile populations.
The new rules limit the number of turtles that may be taken from the wild, not from turtle farms or other aquaculture facilities.
No changes have been made to the number of turtles people may possess; the existing limits still apply. Furthermore, rules about selling or buying turtles also have not changed.
“With the newly approved rule in place protecting freshwater turtles, we will continue to develop a long-term strategy for the management and conservation of Florida’s amphibian and reptile species,” said Bill Turner, an FWC amphibian and reptile specialist.
“We expect to bring the strategy for freshwater turtles back to the Commission in one year.”
Increased demand for freshwater turtles nationally and internationally caused the FWC to begin to evaluate the management of these species to ensure the populations aren’t over-exploited.
Alabama, Michigan, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas recently restricted their turtle harvests, which may cause turtle harvesters from those states to focus on Florida, Turner said.
The new rules are interim measures while the FWC works diligently on a long-term strategy for conservation of these species.