Thoughtful Thursdays: Catch Crabs, Not Terrapins

Save the Terrapins

Crab feasts are a summertime tradition here in Maryland. There’s nothing like gathering around a picnic table with family and friends to spend time together, eating, drinking and picking crabs!

With Memorial Day Weekend marking the opening of Maryland’s crab feast season, the National Aquarium and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources want to remind recreational crab pot owners to obey the law and by doing so, to help save the Maryland State reptile, the diamondback terrapin.

The diamondback terrapin lives exclusively in the tidal salt marshes of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coastal marshes. This brackish-water habitat is also home to the blue crab.

Each year recreational crab pots unnecessarily claim the lives of terrapins. Terrapins are lured into crab pots by the same baits used to attract blue crabs. However, unlike blue crabs, terrapins must rise periodically to the surface for a breath of air. Terrapins trapped in a fully submerged crab pot will eventually die from drowning.

Waterfront property owners are legally allowed to crab with a maximum of two recreational crab pots. Maryland regulation requires that each entrance funnel of all recreational crab pots must be equipped with a with a turtle excluder called a Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD). A BRD is a gate that allows crabs to enter the pot, but keeps the larger-shelled terrapins out.

A BRD will prevent almost all terrapins from entering a crab pot.

Recreational crabbers can purchase BRDs where crab pots are sold, and some retailers sell pots that already have the device installed.

Bycatch Reduction Devices

Metal and plastic BRDs

If you are unable to locate BRDs, contact the National Aquarium Conservation Department at conserve@aqua.org.

Installing a Bycatch Reduction Device

4 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursdays: Catch Crabs, Not Terrapins”


  1. 1 henry September 28, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Why were the Terrapin turtles chosen to represent Maryland?

    • 2 National Aquarium October 2, 2012 at 10:13 am

      The diamondback terrapin has been our state reptile since 1994. It has been the mascot of the University of Maryland since 1933!


  1. 1 Terrapins Go Back to School! « National Aquarium | WATERblog Trackback on September 5, 2012 at 9:53 am
  2. 2 Terrapin Hatchlings Are Ready for School! | National Aquarium - WATERblog Trackback on August 25, 2013 at 8:49 am

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