On Monday, July 18, Governor Christie signed a law that finally prohibits the harvesting of Diamondback Terrapin Turtles, designating the turtle as a “non-game indigenous species”, and making it illegal to catch a terrapin or disturb its nest and eggs.
Diamondback Terrapins were once found in large numbers in backbays and marshes from Massachusetts to Florida. However, the turtle was nearly hunted to extinction in the 1900’s. While populations have somewhat recovered, human activity remains a serious threat to this iconic New Jersey coastal wetland species. Coastal development has led to habitat destruction and loss of nesting sites. Roads create nearly impassable barriers and result in large numbers of roadkills every nesting season. Wetland and marsh habitat has been either filled in, bulkheaded, or lost to subsidence (sinking), climate change caused sea level rise, and human disturbance such as open water trenching and erosion.