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Bill would end commercial turtle harvesting in Minnesota

It's the second time since 2019 the bill has been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature.

A bill aimed at ending the commercial turtle harvest in Minnesota has been reintroduced in the Minnesota Legislature. 

Rep. Samantha Vang, DFL-Brooklyn Center, introduced the proposed legislation on Jan. 28. She introduced a similar measure in 2019.

The bill, H.F. 387, would ban commercial turtle harvesting in Minnesota, which is currently allowed for the common snapping turtle, the painted turtle and the spiny softshell turtle, which can be trapped and sold as pets or as meat, among other things, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

The state did place a moratorium on new turtle seller licenses in 2002, but the state is one of fewer than 25 states that still allow commercial harvesting, with the Minnesota Herpetological Society saying the 21 remaining licensed turtle sellers harvest thousands of turtles in Minnesota every year, and there's is no limit on how many turtles can be harvested. 

The Minnesota Commercial Turtle Harvest report for 2012-2013 looks at how many turtles were harvested each year from 1992 to 2013. 

The Minnesota Commercial Turtle Harvest report for 2012-2013 looks at how many turtles were harvested each year from 1992 to 2013. 

The herpetological society says the commercial harvesting of turtles is "unsustainable," noting regulations need to be updated to reflect the understanding of turtle population management.

Overharvesting is just one of several threats facing turtles in Minnesota, the society notes, others include habitat loss, climate change, pollution and disease. 

The proposed bill would still allow individuals to harvest turtles, so long as the recreational harvester has the proper permit. 

The bill, which does not yet have a companion in the Senate, has been referred to the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy, where Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, is the chair. 

He tweeted about the proposed bill over the weekend:

The 2019 bill Vang introduced to ban turtle harvesting did pass the House, but it wasn't included in the final 2019 Fish and Game bill that both chambers agreed on in a conference committee, the Star Tribune reported

Bring Me The News has reached out to the DNR to see if it supports this proposal. Previously, the DNR did not support such a ban due to lack of data, according to a petition to end commercial turtle harvesting

Sven Sundgaard spoke with Rep. Samantha Vang and wildlife biologist Chris Smith, both of whom are pushing a bill to ban commercial turtle harvesting in Minnesota. You can watch his full interview and discussion about the challenges turtles face from climate change, pollution and loss of habitat. 

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