Iowa Sierra Club aims to restore turtle populations


Painted turtles bask in the sun on this log near Pasadena, Maryland. ()
Painted turtles bask in the sun on a log near Pasadena, Maryland. (Matthew Beziat/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | July 5, 2016

Officials with Iowa’s Sierra Club  want the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to consider new limits on harvesting turtles as a way to restore populations in the Hawkeye State.

Current regulations allow Iowa anglers with a valid fishing license “to take and possess a maximum of 100 pounds of live turtles or 50 pounds of dressed turtles.” A special license is required to sell live or dressed turtles.

The Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club is calling for the Iowa DNR to close turtle season from January 1st to July 15th to allow the animals more time to nest and repopulate. The environmental advocacy group is also calling for catch limits on certain species including the common snapping turtle, spiny softshell turtle, smooth softshell turtle, and painted turtle.

In March, the Iowa Legislature approved a bill that reestablishes turtle harvesting season in Iowa and calls for a study of turtle populations in the state by 2021. House File 2357 was signed by Governor Terry Branstad on March 23.

Documentation of commercial turtle harvesting in Iowa dates back to 1987. A 2013 report by the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club points out that just under 30,000 pounds of turtles were harvested in 1987 compared to more than 200,000 pounds annually in recent years. The increase in annual turtle harvesting has been attributed to greater demand for turtle meat in Asian countries where turtle populations have dwindled, particularly China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

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