NEW ORLEANS — Two Louisiana environmental organizations Wednesday called on the state to end unlimited commercial collection of freshwater turtles, warning of the risks of unfettered turtle harvesting.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Gulf Restoration Network petitioned the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for the ban, saying the state had become a “huge exporter of wild-caught turtles.”

Currently turtle traders can legally collect as many as they are able of 20 types of turtles, the organizations said in a news release.

Elise Bennett, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said scientists believe even low levels of harvests can impact turtles.

“Often you don’t see the impact of these harvests until many years down the road,” she said.

Turtles take a long time to become sexually mature and turtle hatchlings have low survival rates, meaning that taking even one adult reproducing female can affect generations of turtles, she said. The organizations said many other states, including neighboring Texas and Mississippi, have already taken some steps to curb turtle harvests.

Bennett said this is part of a nationwide effort by the center and its partners started back in 2009 to curb turtle harvesting. The organization at that time also petitioned Louisiana to stop commercial turtle harvesting, but Bennett said they received no response from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

A spokesman for the department said Wednesday that they were reviewing the petition.

Bennett said the proposed ban would not affect the state’s turtle farms, only commercial harvesting in the wild.


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