2006 Diamondback Terrapin Fishery in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay by Gerrit Velema and Harley Speir. Publsihed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The Terrapin Institute began in 1998 as a consortium of concerned citizens, scientists, resource managers, and educators dedicated to the understanding, persistence, and recovery of Diamondback Terrapins and other turtles through effective management, thorough research, and public outreach. We work to protect an abundance of adult turtle populations, preserve nesting and forage habitat, and improve recruitment. In return the terrapin has become the perfect metaphor for natural resource stewardship and public engagement; the face of estuarine restoration, and a gateway to the many wonders of our rich tidewater heritage.
<p>THE 2006 DIAMONDBACK TERRAPIN
FISHERY IN MARYLAND'S
Gerrit J. Velema and Harley Speir
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Avenue, B-2
Annapolis, MD 21401
Fisheries Technical Memorandum
The diamondback terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin, is a small, brackish water turtle, found
only along the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States of America, from Cape Cod to
Unique in being the only truly estuarine turtle in North America,
diamondback terrapin have been an important component in the history of Maryland's
Chesapeake Bay and its human inhabitants.
Terrapin are a sexually dimorphic species, with mature males and females in the
Chesapeake Bay reaching carapace lengths of at least 17cm and 24 cm (6.8 and 9.6
inches) respectively. In the Bay, female terrapin become sexually mature at about 8 years
of age, and lay approximately 40 eggs per year in low-lying sandy beaches (Morin,
1991). Eggs hatch in July and August and the young spend the first year of life in tidal
Terrapin reproduction faces many challenges, including egg predation and a need
for a highly specific range of nesting beach habitat. Nesting beach is steadily being
removed by bulkheading and stone armoring or
Compounding these pressures on terrapin survival, a fishery for this species has existed
for as long as humans have inhabited the East Coast. Native American peoples in the
Chesapeake region had been utilizing terrapin as a food long before colonists arrived.
Colonists, in turn, did not waste any time in capitalizing on this nutritional resource.
Terrapin continued to be used for food throughout the 17th and 18th centuries by both
colonists and slaves.
Following the civil war, diamondback terrapin emerged as a
commercially important species as terrapin soup became a delicacy among the most
privileged members of 19th century society (Morin, 1991).