A bill in the Minnesota legislature to prohibit commercial harvest of turtles in the state has made progress, but is receiving significant resistance in the state Senate, according to reptile advocates.
Currently, 19 permitted harvesters trap 5,000 to 10,000 turtles of three species in Minnesota each year. Iowa is the only other state in the Midwest that allows trapping.
“Commercially harvested turtles primarily enter the food trade, pet trade, and biological supply trade (i.e., lab animals for dissections),” according to the Minnesota Herpetological Society. “Many of these turtles get shipped overseas to countries that have already overharvested their native turtle species for food and traditional uses.”
The legislation has been discussed in committees in both the Senate and House. In the House, it has been cleared for possible inclusion in a comprehensive natural resources omnibus bill.
Turtle populations are especially sensitive to harvest because their reproduction strategy is to essentially lay a lot of eggs, knowing that most will not survive. The few turtles that make it to adulthood after several years are essential to species survival.
Although the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in previous years had not taken a position on eliminating the turtle trade in the state, this year the agency has come out in favor of the legislation. The DNR also supports ending the recreational (personal) harvest of one species, the spiny softshell.
The Minnesota Herpetological Society is asking the public to contact legislators in the near future urging their support to finally end the practice. The organization points out that the legislature will recess in late March for the traditional spring break, and many legislators will be holding town halls or otherwise soliciting constituent input during that time.
Find your legislators’ contact information here.
Thank you to Christopher Smith, Minnesota Herpetological Society, Conservation Committee Chair for the information.