Groups: Turtle Trade Going Unchecked in Ohio
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Wild turtles in Ohio can be collected unchecked, and some conservation groups say it's time to end the unlimited harvest.
Ohio is one of just five states that still allows for the commercial harvest of turtles, and Ray Stewart, secretary and past president of the Ohio Wetlands Association, explains there is increasing demand for softshell and snapping turtles for food and medicinal markets in Asia. He points out while Ohio has size and season limits, there are no restrictions on the number of turtles that can be taken.
"Somebody could come to Ohio, spend $19 for a fishing license and collect all the snapping turtles that they could manage and put them on that market,” he points out. “And all they are required to do is keep a personal record of what they harvest."
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, over the past five years nearly 17 million wild turtles from the U.S. were exported to Asia, where native populations are depleted due to increasing consumption.
And without better regulations, Stewart argues there's no telling what commercial trapping will mean for the future of turtle species in Ohio.
The Ohio Wildlife Council is taking public comment on current regulations until Thursday.
Sierra Club Ohio chair Guy Marentette points out that all of Ohio's neighboring states prohibit or limit for-profit turtle harvesting.
"It's really reckless of Ohio to have no limits, given that we have no idea of the numbers and we just have no idea of the impact on the environment,” he states. “And there's really no effort under way to actually measure either of those."
Stewart says freshwater turtle populations are unable to quickly bounce back from significant wildlife collection.
"You think of turtles as being very slow in locomotion,” he points out. “They're also very slow in reproduction. If you take half of the reproducing-age turtles out of an area, it's going to be 10 or 20 years before that area recovers."
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists many of Ohio's turtle species as threatened.