FWS Proposes Protection for Four Turtle Species

By Mark Hofberg

The common snapping turtle is one of four turtle species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list under Appendix III of CITES to allow for improved monitoring of international trade.
Image Credit: Gary Nafis

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing to list four native freshwater turtle species under Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The listing will allow FWS to monitor the amount of international trade of the turtles and determine whether more protection is needed.

CITES is an international treaty signed and ratified by 180 countries that provides protections for species traded internationally. Appendix I and II provide strong protection for threatened or endangered species that are placed at further risk through international trade. Appendix III species receive less statutory protection, but mandatory permits and more rigorous inspections lead to better monitoring, record keeping, and scrutiny when crossing borders.

The four turtle species — the Florida soft-shell (Apalone ferox), smooth soft-shell (Apalone mutica), spiny soft-shell (Apalone spinifera), and common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) — are experiencing unprecedented losses from commercial trade, but it is unknown exactly how much trade is occurring. The systematic monitoring will allow FWS to generate enough data to determine how fast the turtles are being removed from the wild and whether current state and federal efforts are enough to ensure sustainable populations.

FWS is accepting comments on their proposal until December 29, 2014. Comments may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov under Identification number FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0052. By hard copy, submit to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0052; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

Sources: Federal Register (October 30, 2014), USFWS website (October 29, 2014), Greenwire (October 30, 2014)