Accessibility links

Seeking More Protection for Fresh Water Turtles


Ploughshare Tortoise Thomas Leuteritz/USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced a proposed rule to address the growing illegal trade in native turtles that may threaten their survival as species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced a proposed rule to address the growing illegal trade in native turtles that may threaten their survival as species.

If finalized, the rule will place four native freshwater turtle species – the common snapping turtle, the Florida softshell turtle, the smooth softshell turtle and the spiny softshell turtle – on a list under the protection of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

By putting the turtles on the CITES list, the United States will require exporters and importers to obtain a permit before shipping turtles overseas. This listing will also mean that the 179 other CITES member countries will now assist by monitoring trade in these species through their shipping permits.

Freshwater turtles and tortoises are collected, traded and utilized in significant numbers. Listing these turtle species under CITES will allow the Service to better monitor international trade, determine the legality of exports and, in consultation with State wildlife agencies and other experts, decide whether additional conservation efforts are needed.

While none of the four turtle species proposed for protection is currently in danger of extinction, a growing international trade, fuelled by increasing demand in Asian markets, poses a threat to the future of these species.

International trade in turtles is most common in Asia, with source countries feeding well-established legal and illegal trade networks that supply markets in East Asia, principally in China. Turtles are used primarily as food and in traditional medicines in Asia, although a growing pet trade across the region and in other parts of the world is increasingly impacting a number of threatened species.

This proposed rule follows the Sixteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP16) to CITES, where the United States collaborated with China and Viet Nam to increase protection for a number of Asian freshwater turtles. In total, three native turtle species and 44 species of Asian freshwater turtles received increased CITES protection at CoP16.

The United States will continue to work closely with its international partners to combat wildlife trafficking and protect threatened species in the United States and throughout the world.

XS
SM
MD
LG