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Freshwater Turtle Permits Information

The United States is home to a rich variety of freshwater and terrestrial turtles with 57 species, or approximately 18% of the world’s turtles found here. Many of these species are located in the southeastern United States, leading to the world’s second highest concentration of turtle species after southeastern Asia.

Some of these turtles are endangered or threatened due to exploitation and trade. They are also threatened by increased development and habitat loss. Turtles are traded primarily for the pet trade, food consumption or traditional medicines.

A large number of tortoises and freshwater turtles are listed in Appendices I and II of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and all marine turtles are listed in Appendix I. In June, 2006, the United States listed the alligator snapping turtle (Macroclemys temminckii) and all species of map turtle (Graptemys spp.) in Appendix III of CITES. Effective November 21, 2016, the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), Florida softshell turtle (Apolone ferox), smooth softshell turtle (Apalone mutica), and spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera) were also listed in Appendix III. Including the turtles listed by the United States, a total of 26 freshwater turtle species are listed in Appendix III.

For more information on the recent 2016 Appendix III listings, please refer to the press release, Q&As, and Federal Register Notices listed below.

Federal Register Notice, October 20, 2014 Proposed Rule

Federal Register Notice, May 24, 2016 Final Rule

For more information on the 2006 Appendix III listings, read the Federal Register Notices and CITES Notification listed below.

Federal Register Notice, January 26, 2000 Proposed Rule

Federal Register Notice, December 16, 2005 Final Rule

CITES Notification No. 2006/019: Appendix III, March 16, 2006 Notification

To view a list of the United States freshwater species listed in Appendix III, click here. Unsure of the status under CITES of a particular species? Search by scientific name or common name on the CITES Species Database.

 

Importing and Exporting Turtles

You may be surprised to learn that much of CITES comes down to a system of permits. CITES establishes an international legal trade framework with common procedures and mechanisms via a permitting system. Permit requirements depend on the status of the species in the CITES Appendices. Traders must apply for a CITES permit if they want to send out or bring in listed species, including parts and products, across international borders. If you bring wildlife into the country, that’s an import. If you send wildlife out of the country, that’s an export. And, if a species is sent across one border, and then another, the second and all subsequent crossings are called re-exports. All of these activities are considered trade, even if it’s personal.

CITES requirements only apply when the species are being exported, imported, or re-exported across international borders. Domestic trade in these species is not regulated under Federal law.

Once a species is listed under CITES, any international trade in the species, either as live specimens or parts or products, must be accompanied by a valid CITES permit or certificate. Permits ensure trade is conducted at sustainable levels and provide a means to balance use and conservation of protected species.

Although certain native turtle species are regularly farmed or produced in captivity in the United States, those farmed turtles, and any parts or products from them, are also covered by the Appendix III listing and CITES documentation requirements apply.

If you import or export a CITES-listed species without the appropriate import or export documents, you risk the seizure of the turtle(s) or paying a fine.

  

Import Procedures

Export Procedures

Re-Export Procedures

How to Apply for an Export Permit

Farm Production Exporters of Appendix III Turtles

Wild-Caught Turtle Exporters (Commercial, Scientific, and Zoological)

Turtle Breeders

Pet Owners


Import Procedures

Appendix I Turtles

The import of Appendix I turtles into the United States will require both an import permit from the U.S. CITES Management Authority and an export permit from the foreign CITES Management Authority prior to import. Under CITES Article III it is required that import permits are issued before the corresponding export permit, so you'd need to obtain the aforementioned import permit from us first.

To apply for the CITES Appendix I import permit, submit form 3-200-37 to our office with the application processing fee. Instructions are on the form. Contact the foreign CITES Management Authority to apply for the CITES Appendix I export or re-export permits and to check on their requirements. You can find contact information for CITES offices at the following website: http://cites.org/eng/cms/index.php/component/cp

You must follow the general CITES permit requirements for import/export as well as clearance and inspection procedures at the port of entry.

Appendix II and Appendix III Turtles

If you plan to import Appendix II or Appendix III turtles, a CITES import permit is not required. However, an export permit or certificate is required from the foreign CITES Management Authority. Contact the foreign CITES Management Authority to apply for the CITES Appendix I export or re-export permits and to check on their requirements. You can find contact information for CITES offices at the following website: https://cites.org/eng/cms/index.php/component/cp

You must follow the general CITES permit requirements for import/export as well as clearance and inspection procedures at the port of entry.


Export Procedures

The export of Appendix I, Appendix II and Appendix III freshwater turtles from the United States requires an export permit from the U.S. CITES Management Authority. See below for instructions on how to apply for a permit, depending on the CITES status of the species and your activities.

Unsure of the status under CITES of the species you wish to export? To view a list of the United States freshwater species listed in Appendix III, click here. Search by scientific name or common name on the CITES Species Database.

Appendix I Turtles

The export and re-export of Appendix I turtles out of the United States will require both an import permit from the foreign CITES Management Authority and an export permit from the U.S. CITES Management Authority prior to export. Under CITES Article III it is required that import permits are issued before the corresponding export permit, so you'd need to obtain the import permit from the country of import first.

To apply for the CITES Appendix I import permit, contact the foreign CITES Management Authority for guidance and to check on their requirements. You can find contact information for CITES offices at the following website: http://cites.org/eng/cms/index.php/component/cp

To apply for a CITES Appendix I export or re-export permit for a CITES Appendix-I or ESA listed turtle for zoological or scientific purposes from our office, please submit application form 3-200-37 with the processing fee. Instructions are on the form.

You must follow the general CITES permit requirements for import/export as well as clearance and inspection procedures at the port of exit.

Appendix II and Appendix III Freshwater Turtles

The export of Appendix II and Appendix III turtles out of the United States will require a CITES export permit from the U.S. CITES Management Authority prior to export. A CITES import permit is not required, however you should contact the country of import to check on their requirements.

To apply for the CITES export permit, see the guidance below (“How To Apply For An Export Permit”) to choose the correct application form.

How to Apply for an Export Permit

Choose one of the permit application options below, depending on your activity.

Unsure of the status of the species you wish to export? To view a list of the United States freshwater species listed in Appendix III, click here. Unsure of the status under CITES of a particular species? Search by scientific name or common name on the CITES Species Database.

Farm Production Exporters of Appendix III Turtles

Do you operate a “turtle farm” and wish to send Appendix III turtles from your facility to overseas buyers? If no, see the options below. If yes, please complete form 3-200-75 in order to establish an “annual Master File.” Once the annual Master file is established, we are able to issue a number of partially completed export permits that allow the farm to export specimens within days of the turtles hatching. An annual Master File is valid for one year, and you may request as many export permits during that one year period as you believe you will need.

Guidance on completing form 3-200-75 form is available here. This permit application can also be submitted online. To do so, click here.

To view a list of the United States freshwater species listed in Appendix III, click here.

Do you already have an annual Master File? To request additional export permits under your already established annual master file, submit form 3-200-74. Guidance on completing form 3-200-74 is available here. This permit application can also be submitted online. To do so, click here.

You must follow the general CITES permit requirements for import/export as well as clearance and inspection procedures at the port of exit.

Wild-Caught Turtle Exporters (Commercial, Scientific, and Zoological)

Do you wish to export turtles removed from the wild in the United States to overseas importers for commercial, zoological or scientific purposes? If yes, complete form 3-200-27 to apply for a single use permit. Guidance on completing this form is available here.

You must follow the general CITES permit requirements for import/export as well as clearance and inspection procedures at the port of exit.

Turtle Breeders

Do you wish to export turtles bred in captivity to hobbyists, zoos or other foreign importers? If yes, complete form 3-200-24 for a single use permit. Instructions are on the form.

You must follow the general CITES permit requirements for import/export as well as clearance and inspection procedures at the port of exit.

Pet Owners

Individuals who are relocating to a foreign country and wish to export a personal pet turtle should use application form 3-200-46. Instructions are on the form.

If you are a frequent international traveler who would like your pet turtle to accompany you across multiple border crossings, and you will be maintaining your primary residence in the United States, then you should submit 3-200-64. Instructions are on the form.

You must follow the general CITES permit requirements for import/export as well as clearance and inspection procedures at the port of exit.


Re-Export Procedures

Appendix I Freshwater Turtles

The re-export of Appendix I turtles out of the United States will require both a CITES import permit from the foreign CITES Management Authority and a CITES re-export permit from the U.S. CITES Management Authority prior to export. Under CITES Article III it is required that import permits are issued before the corresponding re-export permit, so you'd need to obtain the import permit from the country of import first.

To apply for the CITES Appendix I import permit, contact the foreign CITES Management Authority. You can find contact information for CITES offices at the following website: http://cites.org/eng/cms/index.php/component/cp

If you seek to re-export an Appendix-I, or ESA listed turtle for zoological or scientific purposes, please submit application form 3-200-37 and the processing fee to our office. Instructions are on the form.

You must follow the general CITES permit requirements for import/export as well as clearance and inspection procedures at the port of exit.

Appendix II and Appendix III Freshwater Turtles

The re-export of CITES Appendix II and Appendix III turtles out of the United States will require a CITES re-export permit or Certificate of Origin from the U.S. CITES Management Authority prior to re-export. A CITES import permit is not required, however you should contact the country of import to check on their requirements.

To apply for the CITES re-export permit or Certificate of Origin; submit application 3-200-73 with the processing fee to our office. Instructions are on the form.

You must follow the general CITES permit requirements for import/export as well as clearance and inspection procedures at the port of exit.

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turtle-head

Photo Credit: Andrea Westmoreland/ CC BY-SA 2.0

For general information on CITES permit requirements, click here.

Exporters may need an import/export license in order to engage in business as an importer or exporter of wildlife.

To find the contact information for a foreign CITES Management Authority, click here.

If, after reading this information, you are unclear about the permitting process, please feel free to contact us.