At the end of the month the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board will vote on new rules for taking turtles out of the wild. On Thursday the DNR held a public hearing in Macon.
Right now there are no limits on the number of freshwater turtles trappers and farmers can catch or breed. In 2010 lawmakers passed legislation requiring the DNR to come up with rules on commercial turtles.
David Hem’s been a turtle farmer in North Georgia for 20 years. He takes mature snapping turtles from the wild and harvests their eggs on his farm.
“Most of it’s going to China, the baby turtles. So, all I do, I don’t sell the meat or anything. I have my own turtles, my own ponds. I dig eggs every season and sell the babies after I hatch them and they get shipped. Probably 99 percent of them go to China.”
New rules would require reporting harvest numbers and species. That would limit Hem’s take to 300 snapping turtles a year. DNR officials say the Chinese are buying American turtles for food and medicine after decimating their own wild populations.