Posts Tagged 'turtle'

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

Thoughtful Thursdays: The Nature of Learning

In early May, the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) spent two days at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge engaging students in activities focused on climate change and its effects on the diamondback terrapin.

Partnering with staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, students were led through activities including a wetland planting promoting terrapin habitat, a GPS scavenger hunt to illustrate field monitoring techniques, and a nature walk along the butterfly garden, surveying the local bird population.

Prior to this field trip, Aquarium staff visited the students in their classrooms as part of an introduction to climate change, as well as terrapin characteristics and husbandry. Schools selected to participate are part of the Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom program, a head-start program in which students care for and observe a newly hatched terrapin they will ultimately release into natural habitat at the end of the school year.

All activities were made possible through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Nature of Learning grant. The Nature of Learning grant encourages educators to “use National Wildlife Refuges as outdoor classrooms to promote a greater understanding of local conservation issues.”

In all, the Aquarium engaged more than 100 students in climate change activities, while educating students on how to be stewards of the Chesapeake Bay.

You can too! The Aquarium offers habitat restoration opportunities to promote a healthy Bay. Sign up for one of our free events today! Together our actions and awareness will create a healthy environment for Maryland’s state reptile, the diamondback terrapin.

A new rehab area for rescued sea turtles

Greetings from the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP)! Usually around this time of year we would be sharing stories of rescued animals that are in our care here at the National Aquarium; however, with the mild winter that we had here in the Mid-Atlantic region, staff have not received many calls about animals in need of our help. That does not mean that the staff has been on an extended vacation, though…

In preparation for the “turtle season,” the Aquarium’s MARP staff and Animal Care Center (ACC) staff have been working alongside contractors to get the new sea turtle rehabilitation area up and running. That’s right — the NEW sea turtle rehab area is now complete and ready for its first patient, and MARP is ready to answer those calls for help!

The Animal Care Center is an off-site facility where animals clearing quarantine are held before entering an exhibit, and where wild animals in need of rehabilitation stay. Making sure that the quarantine protocols were followed during this transition has been the biggest step, as there are shared spaces that all staff use, including the kitchen areas. Several precautions were adjusted or added so that all animals remain safe and healthy during their stay at the ACC.

With the help of Andrew Pulver, Darius Hunter, and the ACC staff, the transition has been a huge success, with all equipment in place and the new pool systems up and running smoothly! Currently, the MARP team is keeping a close eye on the water temperatures, to make sure that the new pools are going to be in the proper temperature range for the turtles that we normally take in this time of year. The temperature range that we typically keep for rehabilitation purposes is between 77° and 86°F, and we also keep at least one pool at a lower temperature to mimic the current ocean temperatures. These fluctuations are monitored continually throughout the off-season, even when we don’t have turtles in rehab.

So while there are still a few minor details to work out as far as equipment is concerned, staff members are eager to find and develop new enrichment ideas for the new pools’ large front windows.

Until then, just remember that if you are out on the water this spring and summer, keep your eye out for marine wildlife in our area. It is around this time that we see different animals migrating through our local waters, as the Chesapeake Bay acts as a thoroughfare for several ocean species. Animals that the MARP team usually sees include sea turtles and seals. While sea turtles will generally stay in the water, they do surface for breaths of air, so be careful if out on a boat. Boat strikes are an unfortunately common cause of marine animal injury.

As for seals, this time of year brings them warm sunshine as they pass along the Eastern Shore, so basking areas such as local boat ramps/docks, small islands off the coast, and even public beaches make good haul-out locations for these animals. The MARP team just asks that you keep your distance, as they can be aggressive if approached, and please call the Aquarium’s stranding hotline at 410-373-0083 to let us know if you see one in our area! Healthy or not, we would love to know when these animals are starting to venture along the Maryland coastline.

Today at 12:30 ET: Marine Animal Rescue webcast

Happy World Oceans Day!

TODAY at 12:30 p.m. (Eastern), tune in to our Facebook page for a live webcast and interactive Q&A with the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program staff! They’re busy preparing to release several rehabilitated Kemp’s ridley sea turtles back to their ocean habitat; watch and see what it takes to get these animals ready for release.

Jenn and turtle

The release will take place on Sunday, June 26, at 11 a.m. at the swimming beach of Point Lookout State Park, MD. The release event is free and open to the public, but park entrance fees do apply.


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