Re: Article, Oct. 31, “Man revives turtle with mouth-to-mouth”
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I was inspired to read about the North Florida hero who resuscitated a diamondback terrapin after it nearly drowned in a crab trap. The truth is, we can all be heroes for these rare and beautiful turtles by pushing Florida officials to require “bycatch reduction devices” on crab traps, which prevent terrapins from entering traps in the first place. Experts agree that accidental drowning in crab traps is one of the greatest threats to diamondback terrapins. These curious turtles can’t resist the lure of tasty bait, and once inside the traps they cannot reach the water’s surface to breathe. If a trap is lost or abandoned, it can capture countless terrapins. In fact, scientists have found as many as 94 dead terrapins in one trap. While these deaths are accidental, they are tremendously sad and harmful.
Fortunately there is an easy solution. Attaching small, inexpensive bycatch reduction devices to crab traps makes the openings too small for most terrapins to enter but still large enough to catch legal-size crabs. Florida scientists have found these devices prevent about 72 percent of terrapins from entering traps, saving them from certain death while having no significant impact on crab haul. Many states across Atlantic and Gulf coasts are already mobilizing to implement these live-saving devices. Crabbers and biologists are teaming up in South Carolina to install the devices free of charge, and New York recently proposed requiring them in all crab traps in state estuaries.
Floridians can be heroes for terrapins too. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission should take the lead to require bycatch reduction devices on all crab traps in Florida’s coastal waters.
Elise Bennett, Reptile and Amphibian Staff Attorney Center for Biological Diversity, St. Petersburg