Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Service Proposes Trade Protections for Four Native Freshwater Turtles

October 29, 2014


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

A booming international trade in turtles has put pressure on populations across the country and has led to concern about the long-term survival of several species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a proposed rule to address the growing threat of illegal take and trade in native turtles. If finalized, this action will bring four native freshwater turtle species – the common snapping turtle, the Florida softshell turtle, the smooth softshell turtle and the spiny softshell turtle – under the protection of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and require exporters to obtain a permit before shipping turtles overseas.

Freshwater turtles and tortoises are collected, traded and utilized in overwhelming numbers. Bringing these turtle species under CITES protection will allow the Service to better monitor international trade, determine the legality of exports and, in consultation with State wildlife agencies and other experts, decide whether additional conservation efforts are needed. It will also enlist the assistance of 179 other countries that are part of CITES in monitoring trade in these species.

“Wildlife trafficking is not just a danger to foreign species. Native wildlife, including paddlefish, live reptiles and sharks, as well as plants such as ginseng, are poached and illegally traded,” said Bryan Arroyo, Assistant Director of International Affairs. “We work closely with State wildlife agencies to protect native species and ensure that trade is legal and sustainable, particularly for species at greatest risk of overexploitation.”

While none of the four turtle species proposed for protection is currently in danger of extinction, a growing international trade, especially to fuel increasing demands in Asian markets, poses a threat to the future of these species.

The global trade in turtles in the last 20-plus years has followed a boom-and-bust cycle whereby a sought-after species is depleted in the wild or regulated, causing trade to shift to other species. International trade in turtles is most common in Asia, with supplier countries feeding well-established legal and illegal trade networks supplying markets in East Asia, principally in China. Here, turtles are used primarily as food and in traditional medicines, although a growing pet trade across the region and in other parts of the world is increasingly impacting a number of threatened species.

This proposed rule follows the successful Sixteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP16) to CITES, where the United States collaborated with China and Viet Nam to increase protection for a number of Asian freshwater turtles. In total, three native turtle species and 44 species of Asian freshwater turtles received increased CITES protection at CoP16.

For more information on CITES and how it operates, including Appendix-III listings, visit:

The Service is seeking public comments for 60 days regarding information pertaining to these four turtle species. Please go to Docket No. FWS–HQ–ES–2013–0052 for additional information. The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on October 30, 2014, comments must be received by December 29, 2014.

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