DNR works to help crabbers and save a depleted turtle species

Diamondback terrapin, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Diamondback terrapin, US Fish and Wildlife Service


The South Carolina DNR says they are working to appease crabbers while saving a declining turtle species.

Diamondback terrapins are dying in crab traps along the coast by the thousands. To fix the problem the government is buying Bycatch Reduction Devices or BRD’s and giving them away for free to crabbers.

The DNR is working to improve public opinion of BRD’s. Some crabbers don’t want to use them because they’re afraid they may hurt their crab catch.

Molly Stephenson is one of about 15 crabbers who has signed up to test the BRD’s this fall. She says she felt moved to do something after accidentally killing two terrapins in her crab traps.

“We probably caught 15 turtles,” she recollected, “so it’s disappointing  when you pull up your trap and there’s one in there that didn’t make it.”

But not all crabbers are on board. The DNR still has to overcome hesitation among those who have been let down by similar devices in the past.

Chris Evans is a wildlife technician with the DNR and said the old devices weren’t very efficient.

“They’ve always been quite large…We want to see how small we can get these BRD’s but also allow the larger crabs to get in ‘cause we want to work with the crabbers and make sure they can get the most…that they can out of their pots.”

And environmentalists say the decline in the Diamondback terrapin population could have major impacts on the environment.

Austen Pickhardt, also with the DNR said, “The terrapins are really important to the marsh ecosystem. They really like to eat these snails called Periwinkle snails. The Periwinkle snails feed on marsh grass and left unchecked they’ll decimate the grasses.”

After three years of DNR testing, they’re hoping these new BRD’s will be a success…and so are crabbers, like Molly Stephenson.

“I’m anxious to see if they work you know, that would be great and we’ll see what happens.”

DNR officials will hold BRD workshops October 11th at Huntington State Park and October 20th at Georgetown County Library.

Interested crabbers can sign up for the DNR study below.