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Posted by W von Papinešu on May 14, 2003 at 22:26:20:
NEWS & OBSERVER (Raleigh, N Carolina) 14 May 03 House OKs halt to trapping - Freshwater turtles would gain protection as of July 1 (Wade Rawlins)
The state House on Tuesday voted 110-0 to expedite a moratorium on commercial trapping of freshwater turtles.
The bill, already passed by the Senate, would stop trapping as of July 1. Sen. Charlie Albertson, a Democrat from Beulaville, introduced the bill after The News & Observer reported on out-of-state trappers taking thousands of turtles from creeks and streams.
Commercial harvesting of turtles has increased from a few hundred turtles in 2000 to more than 23,000 last year, according to wildlife collection reports. The turtles are sold abroad as pets, food and for use in folk medicines.
Another version of the bill introduced in the House had set the date to stop trapping at Oct. 1.
The bill gives the Wildlife Resources Commission authority to set limits on collection of non-endangered reptiles and amphibians and until then put a halt to widespread commercial harvesting of freshwater terrapins and turtles.
Dick Hamilton, deputy director of the Wildlife Resources Commission, said the commission strongly supported the legislation. The commission currently has authority to regulate fish, birds and mammals, but not reptiles and amphibians unless they are endangered.
"You need to protect them from overharvest before they are endangered," Hamilton said. "It addresses an immediate problem and also gives us longer range options for other reptiles and amphibians for keeping them off the endangered species list."
North Carolina has no regulations on commercial harvesting of freshwater turtles. Sea turtles are protected because they are listed as federally threatened and endangered.
The bill returns to the Senate for concurrence, which is expected.