Terrapins are now protected in New Jersey! New Jersey Senate Bill (S1625) was introduced to the Senate by Senator VanDrew along with Assembly Bill (A2949) sponsored by Assemblymen Bob Andrzejczak and R. Bruce Land. The bills make terrapins a "non-game species" and prevent them from being harvested. On March 3, Assembly Bill 2949 passed the Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee (5-0) and was introduced into the Assembly for a vote on April 7 where is was unanimously supported (71-0-0). Senate Bill 1625 as introduced to the Senate, substituted by A2949, and voted on by the Senate (37-0-0). Governor Christie signed the bill on Friday July 15 making terrapins a "non-game" species. Thanks to everyone who work with terrapins and really pushed this initiative! There are a lot more conservation efforts necessary, but, at least, terrapins are afforded some protection in New Jersey!
A little history includes....Back on May 4, 2015 the last session version of the bill (S2615) to make terrapins a non-game species was unanimously passed by the Environment and Energy Committee. However, it never made it to a voting session. Our involvement was when New Jersey Senator James Holzapfel's office met with Project Terrapin student leaders at his office in October 2014. Senator Holzapfel's office began writing legislation about making terrapins a non-game species; however, Senator Jeff VanDrew and Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak drafted legislation to make terrapins a non-game species prior to the students' meeting with Senator Holzapfel. Thus there were bills in place. At the same time, on January 8, 2015 the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council unanimously voted to support the temporary suspension of the terrapin fishery this season so that they could address concerns with the terapin harvest and NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin signed an Executive Order to close the remainder of the terrapin harvest season in early March 2015. The following year, on January 26, 2016 NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin signed another Executive Order to close the terrapin harvest season for the remainder of the 2016 winter harvest season which expired on March 31, 2016. In May 2016, Governor Christie's office released a statement stating that he would support conservation of terrapins through an indefinite moratorium on their harvest. Thus, there was a tremendous effort by the NJDEP to have in place an indefinite moratorium on the harvest of terrapins in New Jersey, which was to be voted on the early fall 2016. In fact, biologists provided the NJDEP with facts about terrapin populations in New Jersey to provide a scientific basis for the proposed conservation measure to ban harvesting. However, the Governor signed the legislation (Bill A2949) and terrapins are now protected! We wish to thank NJDEP Commissioner Martin for addressing the terrapin harvest issue in New Jersey. We especially would like to thank Senator VanDrew and Assemblyman Andrzejczak and Assemblyman Land for their support of New Jersey's terrapins. We need to continue to manage this species better and continue with efforts to protect habitat, reduced mortality and increase awareness of terrapins throughout New Jersey.