Minnesota bans commercial trapping of wild turtles

(ABC 6 News) – Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on Wednesday signed into law a ban on commercial collection of wild turtles in the state.

Each year, for-profit trappers have collected thousands of turtles from the state’s waterways, mostly to sell for food, traditional Asian medicines or pets, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

“Tens of thousands of Minnesota’s turtles are now safe from trappers out to make a quick buck,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The science shows that even a small number of turtle traffickers can quickly devastate turtle populations. This ban is a big victory for all of us who care about the health of our state’s wildlife and waterways.”

About two decades ago, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources placed a moratorium on issuing new licenses for commercial turtle trappers. Since then, the remaining licensees have continued to collect and sell tens of thousands of turtles using baited turtle traps. For example, in 2021,19 licensees removed approximately 10,000 painted turtles from the wild in Minnesota.

Minnesota study found lower turtle population levels in lakes where commercial turtle trapping had previously occurred. Many studies have shown that wild turtles cannot withstand commercial exploitation without facing severe declines because, unlike deer and other traditional “game” animals, turtles take many years to mature and reproduce.

As part of a campaign to protect freshwater turtles in the United States, advocacy by the Center for Biological Diversity and its partners, has led to bans or important restrictions on commercial turtle trapping in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, New York, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas. Prior to enactment of this new legislation, Minnesota was one of just six states that still allowed unrestricted commercial collection of wild turtles.

The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2024.