Governor Chris Christie has approved a new law, making it illegal to hunt or harvest diamondback terrapins.

The legislation was passed in May by the state Senate. It came in response to one recent incident involving a massive amount of diamondback terrapins harvested in the state. In 2013, a harvester used a commercial crabbing dredge to take more than 3,500 turtles from two locations in South Jersey and sell them to an aquaculture facility in Maryland. An investigation revealed those turtles were used to raise 14,000 more for sale to overseas markets.

Turtle walking

"That incident was really a wake-up call, making us realize just how vulnerable this species had become," said New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Chanda. "We have plenty of observational and anecdotal evidence that the species has been in decline. We need to take a step back and get a better handle on the measures that will be needed to restore this species."

"We know that this species, which holds a special place in the hearts of residents of coastal areas as well as visitors, faces many threats and has been declining in numbers for many years now," New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said in a release. "Banning all harvesting is the right thing to do to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy seeing diamondback terrapins in the wild."

Christie says the law "will help to ensure the species remains a feature of our natural landscape for generations to come."

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