Diamondback Terrapin. Photos by Willem M. Roosenburg, Ph.D., Ohio University.
Maryland has acted to protect Diamondback Terrapins. Effective July 1, 2007, it is unlawful to take or possess them for commercial purposes (Chapters 117 & 118, Acts of 2007; Code Natural Resources Article, sec. 4-902).
Chesapeake colonists ate terrapin prepared Native-American fashion, roasted whole in live coals. Abundant and easy to catch, terrapin were so ample that landowners often fed their slaves and indentured servants a staple diet of terrapin meat. Later, in the 19th century, the turtle was appreciated as gourmet food, especially in a stew laced with cream and sherry. Subsequently, tremendous retail demand and heavy fishing of the terrapin nearly depleted its supply, and protective laws were enacted.
In 1891, some 89,000 lbs. of terrapin were harvested from Maryland waters. With few exceptions, annual harvests since 1956 have remained below 11,000 lbs.
The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for the rules and regulations governing the conservation of diamondback terrapin (Code Natural Resources Article, sec. 4-903).
Detailed information about the turtle's biology and living habits can be found at the website of the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
Diamondback Terrapin mascot, University of Maryland, College Park.
July 1, 2009
Note: In this past edition of Maryland Manual, some links are to external sites. View the current Manual