Where Have All The Turtles Gone?


Gone to Asia, one by one.††


Itís a sad truth.†† Turtles on the Rainbow and Withlacoochee rivers are disappearing at a troubling rate Ė primarily because of commercial turtle harvesting for the Asian market where turtle meat is in high demand because their own local rivers have become depleted.††† In fact, Florida Wildlife Commissioners estimated last spring that up to 3,000 pounds of live turtles were being exported every week from Tampa alone.


The Rainbow River has traditionally supported one of the most diverse turtle populations in Florida, including the Florida Soft Shell, the Peninsular Cooter, the Chicken Turtle, the Loggerhead Musk Turtle, the Snapping Turtle and the imperiled and protected Suwannee Cooter.They are an irreplaceable part of the riverís ecosystem.††† Yet, their population decline in recent years has been steady and well documented.†††


It almost seems unthinkable that commercial turtle hunting could actually be occurring on a Florida designated Aquatic Preserve like the Rainbow.†† But that is exactly the case and there is no Florida law to prevent it.


However, that may be about to change.


Crystal River/June 17:The Final Turtle Hurdle.


In Tallahassee on April 15 of this year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a draft which, if enacted into law, would ban all commercial turtle hunting in Florida public waters and allow only one non-imperiled species of turtle to be taken per person, per day.†† Presently twenty turtles per person, per day can be taken on a commercial license.†† It would also prohibit the taking of turtle eggs and become the toughest turtle protection law in the U.S.††††


Though Governor Crist has lent his support, the draft faces one more crucial hurdle Ė a final review and vote which will be held on Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 8:30 a.m. at The Plantation Inn in Crystal River.†† It is open to the public and all concerned people are urged to attend.†† The proposed law is expected to be vigorously opposed by commercial turtle hunting representatives.       


In the mean time you can express support of the draft by emailing Turtles@MyFWC.com†††† Or write:


       Dr. Ken Haddad, Executive Director,

       Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,

       620 South Meridian Street

       Farris Bryant Building

       Tallahassee, Florida, 32399-1600


J.P. Davis,Freelance Writer and member of Rainbow River Conservation


PHOTO CAPTION:$1.25 a pound.

Commercial turtle hunters receive about

$1.25 a pound for live turtles like this Florida

Softshellwhich eventually wind up as table fare

in Asia.††