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Outdoor News: Local turtle species receive worldwide protection

From staff reports

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is addressing the growing threat of unsustainable and illegal trade in native freshwater turtles through a final rule that will bring four native freshwater turtle species under the protection of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The listing of the common snapping, Florida softshell, smooth softshell and spiny softshell turtles under CITES will require exporters to obtain a permit before shipping turtles overseas, helping the United States better control trade to ensure it is legal.

Two of those species, the common snapper and spiny soft-shell are abundant in Southeast Texas.

“In 2013, we collaborated with international partners to adopt CITES protections for Asian freshwater turtles. Our own native species face the same global demand, so it is critical we protect them under CITES as well,” said Bryan Arroyo, the Service’s Assistant Director of International Affairs. “We will work closely with state wildlife agencies to protect native species and ensure trade is legal and sustainable, particularly for species at greatest risk of over-exploitation.”

Freshwater turtles and tortoises are collected, traded and utilized in overwhelming numbers. The Service supports a strategic, global approach to freshwater turtle conservation, as evidence shows that when protections for freshwater turtles are strengthened in one region, demand in other regions for unprotected species may increase.

“U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement investigations have documented illegally exported softshell turtles to markets in Asia,” said Ed Grace, the Service’s Deputy Chief of Law Enforcement.  “Listing these species under CITES will help engage our international partners to assist our special agents and wildlife inspectors in the fight against the illegal turtle trade, including investigating the criminals who profit from it.”

Trade in turtles is most common in East Asia, principally in China, with supplier countries feeding well-established legal and illegal trade networks. 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.

CITES is an international agreement signed by more than 180 governments that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Species are listed under one of three appendices depending on the severity of the threat presented by trade. Listed species may be traded internationally only when accompanied by permits.

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The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) would like to advise anglers while targeting red snapper and other offshore species, the 2016 recreational fishing season for greater amberjack and gray triggerfish has been closed since June 1.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also closed federal waters to recreational harvest of both species June 1 through July 31.

LDWF officials reminds anglers that a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit is required in order to posses certain species, including red snapper. Anglers may obtain or renew the permit, free of charge at https://rolp.wlf.la.gov.

The permit is required for any angler possessing tuna, billfish, swordfish, amberjacks, groupers, snappers, hinds, wahoo, cobia and dolphin, except for anglers under 16 years of age or anglers fishing on a paid-for-hire trip where the captain holds a permit.

Anglers may renew their permits up to 30 days prior to expiration. A valid Louisiana fishing license number is required to obtain a permit. A confirmation number is allowed for a temporary (trip) license.