Need to Ban Commercial Collection of Texas Turtles:
Increasing pressure on native Texas turtle species as a result
of the commercial collection of turtles in the state to supply
food markets in Asia is putting these species at risk. In
recognition of this threat to Texas turtle species and in
response to public concern the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
(the governing body of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
in early April voted to propose a complete ban on the commercial
collection of native Texas turtles as part of proposed changes
in rules governing commercial nongame permits. The proposed
rules changes were published in the Texas Register on April
20, 2007, with a 30-day public review and comment period.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission is expected to vote
at its next scheduled meeting on May 24 on whether to adopt in whole or in part the
proposed ban on commercial collection of turtles.
Although public support for the ban seems strong, the Commission
is getting some push-back from commercial collectors of
turtles and from some dealers who purchase the turtles for
sale to Asian markets and other buyers.
Also, PLEASE NOTE that there may be a move at the Commission meeting to exempt red-eared slider turtles from the ban. Supporters of the turtle ban oppose such an exemption.
People concerned about the future of native Texas turtles need to submit comments to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department by May 21, 2007 in favor of the proposed ban on commercial collection of turtles without changes or exemptions.
What is the basis for concern that has led to this proposed ban? The following excerpt (separated into three paragraphs) from the preamble to the proposed rules as published in the Texas Register explains the basis for the proposed ban:
Because of factors such as delayed sexual maturity, long
lifespans, and low reproductive and survival rates, turtles
are highly sensitive to population alterations, especially
in older age classes. The presence of turtles in some areas
should not be taken as evidence that populations in those
areas are necessarily viable. Long lifespans, long generation
times, and relatively slow growth may give the appearance
that populations are stable, even after recruitment has ceased
or populations reach levels below which recovery is possible.
Impacts to turtle populations, such as the loss of important
nesting areas or unsustainable mortality of adults, may remain
undetectable until populations reach critical levels or become
extirpated. Known limiting factors such as water pollution,
road mortality, and habitat loss are important components
in turtle declines; but commercial collecting efforts in
the wild intensify the impact of those threats by removing
large numbers of adults and juveniles from wild populations.
The collection for food markets has devastated turtle populations
in Asia, the destination of the bulk of turtles commercially
collected in Texas. It is axiomatic that shifting the Asian
demand for turtles to North American populations could result
in similar impacts if commercial activity is not regulated.
Therefore, the department is proposing to prohibit the commercial
collection of all turtle species in the state.
There are three ways that members of the public who support the proposed ban on commercial collection of turtles in Texas may comment on the proposed rules:
Comments may be mailed to
Kristin Rathburn, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744.
Comments may be submitted directly through the Texas Parks
and Wildlife Department web site by going to the following link:
Sample comments with or without alteration that might
be sent via e-mail or regular mail are provided with this
PLEASE REMEMBER The ban on commercial collection of turtles in Texas is the central part of the proposed changes to commercial nongame regulations published in the Texas Register, so dont
be confused by the title of the proposal.