Protection for Diamondback Terrapin in New York State

In the summer and fall of 1988, The New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, alarmed by reports of great numbers of diamondback terrapins being exploited by food markets in New York City, petitioned the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for protection for this species.  Over 500 copies of the petition and numerous letters of support from biologists and wildlife authorities were received by the Department.

In response to the petition and letters of support, a formal hearing was held on December 7, 1988, at the Region 2 offices of the DEC in Long Island City, New York.  On April 24, 1989, the Department issued a report summarizing the testimony given.  The report included a brief review of the biology of the diamondback terrapin, a review of the protected status of diamondbacks in each state throughout its range, a list of recommendations by the Department, and a draft proposal of regulations for diamondbacks in New York State.  A 90-day period for public comment on the proposal was provided.

New regulations protecting the diamondback in New York became effective on January 31, 1990.  They established a closed season during the turtle’s nesting period, size limits, prohibition of the sale of diamondbacks during the closed season, and a license requirement for those wishing to harvest terrapins.  The full text of New York State’s regulations are reproduced below:


Adopt new 6n NYCRR Part 3 to read as follows:


        Section 3.1 — Protection of Diamondback Terrapin

        (a) Purpose. The purpose this section is to provide protection for the diamondback terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin, including all of its subspecies. Protective measures include the establishment of a closed season, requirement for a license to take diamondback terrapin from the wild, establishment of size limits, and restrictions on the sale of diamondback terrapin.

        (b) Open season. Diamondback terrapin may be taken from August 1 to April 30 inclusive.

        (c) Regulations. (1) The following are prohibited:

        (i) taking, attempting to take, or assisting in taking diamondback terrapin except during the open season. Possession of a diamondback terrapin on the waters or shores of New York State during the closed season shall be presumptive evidence that the diamondback terrapin was taken during such closed season;

        (ii) taking, attempting to take, or assisting in taking, of diamondback terrapins without a license;

        (iii) taking or possessing at any time while on the waters or shores of New York State a diamondback terrapin which has a straight line upper shell length less than four inches or greater than seven inches;

        (iv) purchase or sale of diamondback terrapin which has a straight line upper shell length less than four inches or greater than seven inches. As use in this section, “sale” means any delivery or transfer of a live diamondback terrapin or the flesh of a diamondback terrapin whether for a consideration or as a gift. As used in this section, “sale” includes offering for sale or possession with intent to sell;

        (v) sale of diamondback terrapin from May 5 to July 31 inclusive except that diamondback terrapin legally taken during the open season may be sold throughout the year if they were killed and processed for consumption prior to May 5;

        (vi) taking diamondback terrapin except by the following methods: (1) dip nets, (2) hand capture, (3) seine nets as authorized by Section 13-0343 of the Environmental Conservation Law, and (4) traps capable of capturing diamondback terrapin alive. Each trap must be marked with a tag bearing the name and address of the licensee and must be checked daily;

        (vii) willfully taking, destroying, or disturbing the eggs or nest of a diamondback terrapin in the wild;

        (viii) failing to immediately release at the point of capture diamondback terrapin which are caught accidentally or incidentally, or which are not within the legal size limits; and

        (ix) liberating diamondback terrapin to the wild, except immediately upon, and only at the point of, capture, without authorization by the department.

        (d) License. (1) A valid diamondback terrapin license is required to take diamondback terrapin. (2) Application for, and purchase of, a diamondback terrapin license may be made by mail or in person at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, SUNY Building 40, Stony Brook, NY 11794. The fee for such license shall be ten dollars and such license shall be in effect from July 1st through the following June 30th.

        (e) General provisions. The general provisions of the Environmental Conservation Law are applicable to the taking of diamondback terrapin.

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