PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Diamondback terrapins are medium-sized turtles that live in similar brackish water habitat as blue crabs, as well as salt marshes, barrier islands, mangrove swamps, tidal creeks, and rivers. Their numbers are on the decline according to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Due to this, the FWC officials say they are investigating proposals for new regulations on blue crab traps, as these turtles could potentially enter these traps becoming injured or killed.
Regulations such as the utility of bycatch reduction devices to minimize harm to terrapins.
Public Information Specialist Amanda Nalley said the FWC hosted a public workshop last night and again tonight to gather community input on the possible proposal.
“To formulate what kind of proposal we will have for a regulation change, for the commission. We will bring that, we are looking at December right now, and of course, that is subject to change, it will come before the commission usually at least twice so people will have an opportunity to comment then as well,” she said.
One local known as The Lady Crabber, Cindy Millender, with CNH Blue Crab said that she feels this particular regulation is unnecessary as she has never captured the turtle in any of her traps.
“So if I have never caught a diamondback terrapin in my cages, personally, they are going to pass somethings that would affectively hurt our crabbing industry here in Bay County, and I don’t even have the issue of the terrapins,” she said.
She explained that adding this device to traps will limit the space for crab to enter the cages and lead to only smaller, less mature grabs getting caught. Less mature crabs that need to remain in the habitats to breed, leaving larger crabs unharvested who no longer contribute to the crab populations.
One Buddy Gandy’s Seafood customer, Jeff McPeak, asked what the harm was in a regulation that helps prevent decline of the terrapin.
“I know it is probably more expensive to have things, but stuff is going to go away, I mean you can’t just have everything the way you want it all the time,” he said.
Nalley said the trap device is not the only option being explored to help protect the turtle species. Every workshop they host, she said, has the goal of designing proposals that both protect the terrapin and the local crabbing industries.
“Certainly we want to hear from as many people as possible so that we make sure we are making the best decision here for both the species and for the people who participate in this fishery and that benefit from the fishery,” she said.
If people missed the workshops they can also leave comments for the FWC to review here.