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Freshwater Turtle Export Control

Our Position: support
Bill Number: 3121
Sponsor: Rep. James Smith, Rep. Ted Pitts and Tom Young
Legislative Session: 09

Limits the export of wild caught freshwater turtles to 10 per day. Will severely limit the export of SC turtles to the Asian market. Also, allows for export of turtles raised in permitted aquaculture facilities.



Action Needed

Headed to the House floor on Feb. 21.


Members of the House


House Bill H.3121 Export of  Freshwater Turtles From South Carolina


Summary: The proposed legislation simply limits the export of freshwater turtles to ten per day. This limit would halt the harvest of thousands of our turtles and their shipment as food products to Asia. It does not affect the right for South Carolina citizens to have, or use turtles for pets or food. It also provides an opportunity for people with ponds to have these ponds permitted as aquaculture facilities and “farm” turtles in South Carolina, if they desire.


  • Turtle harvesting is a global conservation problem that affects our turtles, with little or no benefit provided to the people of South Carolina for the loss of this resource. The people who benefit are the out-of-state trappers and turtle farmers that ship turtle meat to Asia (China primarily) and the turtle meat brokers in Asia.


  • The harvest of freshwater turtles in South Carolina is currently unregulated. Freshwater turtles are the only animals harvested at this level in South Carolina with no regulatory control over the harvest. Responsible natural resource management indicates that control of exported turtles is required in this situation.


  • Regulation of freshwater turtle harvest in the Southeast is not standardized across states. Some states do not allow, or strictly control harvest (Texas, North Carolina, and Mississippi), while others allow harvest with seasonal or take limits, and commercial permits (Florida, Tennessee, and Alabama). Georgia has a list of protected turtle species, but does not regulate the harvest of non-protected species.


  • Biologists who specialize in freshwater turtles are concerned that the life history of these species does not make them good candidates for sustained-yield harvest. Unlike most all game species, which are short-lived and become reproductively mature at an early age, turtles are long-lived, but slow to mature. Many freshwater turtle species may take up to 20 years (females, primarily) before they reach breeding age.


  • Female turtles, in many of the harvested species, grow to a significantly larger size than males, making them a more “desirable” catch. Experts are concerned that the targeted removal of large numbers of female turtles, will increase the rate of population declines.

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