(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land (both D-Cape May, Atlantic & Cumberland) to protect New Jersey’s declining diamondback terrapin population by making it illegal to harvest these turtles was released last week by the full Assembly.
“Diamondbacks are unique to New Jersey and play a significant role in our coastal ecosystem,” said Andrzejczak. “The diamondback terrapin is threatened by loss of habitat, road mortality and increased demand from food markets overseas that has intensified its harvest. This bill would help protect our diamondbacks from going down the road towards extinction.”
“New Jersey’s diamondback population is decreasing. Increased harvesting is one of the reasons for the decline,” said Land. “We can wait until it is too late, or we can take action now to prevent this species so important to our coastal communities from becoming endangered.”
The bill (A-2949) would designate the diamondback terrapin as a nongame indigenous species subject to the same laws, rules, and regulations governing other nongame indigenous reptiles in the state. With this designation, it would no longer be legal to hunt, catch or take diamondback terrapin in New Jersey. The bill would also require the Commissioner of Environmental Protection to investigate biological and ecological data concerning the state’s diamondback terrapin population and determine management measures necessary for the continued viability of the species.
The diamondback terrapin is native to New Jersey and inhabits the state’s coastal salt marshes and estuaries along the Atlantic Coast and Delaware Bay. Habitat loss and road mortality pose major threats to the health of the population. Each year, hundreds of terrapins are killed by motor vehicle, particularly in summer months when females actively search for suitable nest sites. Affording the diamondback terrapin protection as a nongame indigenous species subject to “The Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act” will help encourage conservation of the species and its habitats.
The bill was approved 71-0 on April 7 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.