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For Release: Wednesday, May 23, 2018

DEC and Partners Celebrate World Turtle Day®

New Turtle Excluder Devices Protect Local Diamondback Terrapin Populations

In conjunction with the internationally recognized May 23 celebration of World Turtle Day®, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and representatives from Seatuck Environmental Association, Hofstra University, The Nature Conservancy, and Save the Great South Bay gathered at Seatuck Environmental Center in Islip today to demonstrate DEC's recently required terrapin excluder devices (TEDs). DEC began requiring the devices for crabbing operations to lessen the take of diamondback terrapins in March.

"Diamondback terrapins are one of the marine district's iconic species," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Over the past year, DEC has taken steps to stop the harvest of this species by declaring an end to its open hunting season. The terrapin excluder devices not only protect the diamondback terrapins from being caught in crab pots, but also allow New York's baymen to harvest blue crabs and other crab species that support livelihoods of the men and women working New York's waters."

TEDs are required on all funnel entrances of commercial crab pots set in creeks, coves, rivers, tributaries, and near-shore harbors of the Marine and Coastal District. The devices prevent diamondback terrapins from entering crab pots in search of food.

Diamondback terrapins are a turtle species that live in brackish waters associated with the lower Hudson River, Long Island Sound, Peconic Bay, and the coastal embayments along the south shore of Long Island. The diamondback terrapin was identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the 2015 New York State Wildlife Action Plan due to documented threats from habitat loss, nest predation, and incidental capture from fishing-related operations.

"We are deeply grateful for this legislation, and for all the effort it took to achieve it," said Marshall Brown, President of Save the Great South Bay. "We must protect the Diamondback Terrapin if we are to preserve our bay. They dine on periwinkle snails that would otherwise devour our marshes. In honor of World Turtle Day, volunteer where you can as we approach nesting season, and watch the roads!"

"There are few things sadder than seeing terrapins unintentionally drowned in crab traps," said Carl LoBue, New York oceans program director for The Nature Conservancy. "When New York's baymen, scientists, fishermen, conservation leaders, and government work together we make a big difference. Today is a very happy World Turtle Day in New York."

"On World Turtle Day®, it is heartening to know that for at least one species - the Diamondback Terrapin, an inhabitant of Long Island's coastal waters - the future appears brighter, with the recent adoption of two important state regulations designed to protect the species," said John Turner, Conservation Policy Advocate for the Seatuck Environmental Association. "We know that in the past, collectively, many hundreds if not thousands of terrapins drowned in crab pots, drawn to the bait designed to catch crabs, thereby being unintended by-catch in people's pursuit of blue claw crabs. With the support of baymen who outfit their pots with terrapin excluder devices, as required by the recently adopted rule, we can expect mortality from crab pots to significantly decline. And the other measure - to eliminate direct human harvest of terrapins - just makes common sense given the species' low numbers and the plethora of other foods available to Long Islanders."

Seatuck Environmental Association provided at no charge 5,000 TED's or terrapin excluder devices to the DEC for dissemination to baymen.

Diamondback Terrapin Hunting Season Closed

In September 2017, DEC announced it was adopting regulations to eliminate commercial harvest of diamondback terrapins and add the species to the list of native turtles with no open season. The final diamondback terrapin season closed on April 30, 2018, with licenses expiring May 4, 2018.

Populations of diamondback terrapins plummeted in the early 20th Century due to unregulated harvest for turtle soup. After a rebound throughout most of the last century, new declines in diamondback terrapin populations along the Atlantic Coast led to the closure of commercial harvest in all states in the terrapin's range with the exception of New York.

In addition to closing New York's open season, the diamondback terrapin has been added to the list of native turtles to protect all life stages of the species from being collected from the wild. DEC will continue to evaluate and pursue additional actions to improve the status of the diamondback terrapin populations in New York.

Information on the life history of the diamondback terrapin may be found by visiting DEC's website.

TED Availability

A small number of TEDs (provided by The Nature Conservancy and Seatuck) are available to crab pot fishers that have reported blue crab landings within the last two years, on a first-come, first-served basis at no cost. Please contact DEC at 631-444-0429 or Crabbing in NY for more information. To learn where TEDs are required visit DEC's webpage.

World Turtle Day®

World Turtle Day® was founded 18 years ago by American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle. ATR created World Turtle Day® to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. World Turtle Day® is celebrated in the U.S., Canada, Pakistan, Borneo, India, Australia, the UK, Greece and many other countries.

ATR launched World Turtle Day to increase respect and knowledge for the world's oldest creatures. These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of smuggling, the exotic food industry, habitat destruction, global warming and the cruel pet trade. It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world.

Biologists and other experts predict the disappearance of turtles and tortoises within the next 50 years.
Give Turtles a Brake

In New York, thousands of turtles are killed each year when they are struck by vehicles while migrating to nesting areas. DEC reminds the public that the state's native turtles are on the move in May and June, seeking sandy areas or loose soil to lay their eggs. Drivers that see a turtle on the road should use caution-not swerve suddenly or leave their lane of travel--and take care to avoid hitting turtles while driving.

It's important to use extreme caution when moving snapping turtles; either pick the turtle up at the rear of the shell near the tail using two hands, or slide a car mat under the turtle to drag the turtle across the road. Do not take native turtles into personal possession. All native turtles are protected by law and cannot be collected without a permit. For more information on protecting turtles and other reptiles, visit DEC's website.

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