The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is proposing some new rules to protect freshwater turtles in the state from over-trapping.
John Jensen, a biologist with the DNR, said these new rules would provide regulation that doesn't really exist in the state now.
"We believe, and we've got anecdotal information, that trappers are really focusing on Georgia because they are not limited by anything," said Jensen.
The rules would include requiring anyone who owns more than ten turtles to get a commercial turtle permit. Those with a permit would have a set quota of how many turtles can be exported a year. That ranges from 100 turtles a year to about 1,000 depending on the species.
If someone violates it, according to DNR, they could face a misdemeanor charge and their permit would be revoked.
"The main thing is that if they are found in violation of this, they will lose their ability to get a commercial permit for a period," said Jensen.
These proposed new regulationsare coming from an increased demand overseas for Southeastern freshwater turtles, according to the DNR.
"We should not allow these turtles to just dwindle to satisfy the interest of folks on the other side of the globe," said Jensen.
The Alligator Snapping turtle is already protected in Georgia, but the numbers show the increase in demand for these turtles overseas. According to Bruce Weissgold of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, just over 1,000 alligator snapping turtles were exported in 1990 nationwide. In 2009, that was up to 40,000 turtles, and they're going primarily to China and Hong Kong.
"When we're talking about turtles, it mostly involvesthe pet trade and the food trade, which are both primarily international trade. They aren't going through other states, they are going through other countries," said Jensen.
The board of Natural Resources will discuss the new regulations on Wednesday.