In the state of Iowa, the practice of turtle harvesting has become progressively greater, growing up to seven times in the years 1987 to 2013. Given the rate of increase, as well as the rising number of license holders in the state, wildlife officials have sent a proposal to limit the capture of the wild turtles: painted, smooth, spiny softshell and the snapping turtles, in the area.
Turtles are believed by some cultures to have medicinal and longevity properties. Some Asian countries have added turtle meat to their diet due to this belief. Turtle harvesting in certain Asian countries, particularly in China, has always been a pressing issue. With their supply now depleted, they have turned to other countries in order to meet the demand.
The state of Iowa is one of ten states that have not yet put a limit on the harvesting of turtles. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has filed a proposal to the office of the Governor, Terry Branstad, to prohibit commercial and sport harvest of the four kinds of turtles from the first of January to the 15 of June in order to guarantee the hatching season of the reptiles. The governor’s policy team is reviewing the proposal; it would then be passed to the Iowa Natural Resource Commission after it is approved.
In 2009, the Center for Biological Diversity appealed to the Natural Resource Commission to form restrictions, though it was denied on the basis that further evidence was needed to back-up the petition.
Aside from consumption, there might be other reasons that impede the population of the turtles from growing, according to biologists. The DNR’s fisheries Bureau Chief, Joe Larscheid, explained that the habitat of the turtles for laying their eggs is limited, with 95% of the wetlands in Iowa mostly gone.
Moreover, the painted turtles are being commercialized as household pets, and there is the problem of pollution in the water, which will likely endanger the existence of as much as fifty percent of the turtle species. Furthermore, turtles take a long time to mature and an even longer time to reproduce; thus, the overharvesting of turtles that are reproductively capable to breed is also a cause of concern to biologists, in addition to the several predators that hunt the turtle’s eggs for food.
A proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been submitted to include turtles in the international trade requirement that would mean permits must be obtained before turtles can be shipped overseas.