Notes from the Field - July 2021

Diamondback terrapins are a brackish water turtle species of special concern that live in marshes and tidal creeks. Terrapins often get caught in crabpots as by-catch and drown because they aren't able to get out. Terrapin Excluder Devices (TEDs, also known as Bycatch Reduction Devices) can be installed in crabpots to prevent terrapins from getting in. TEDs are required in all crabpots in Diamondback Terrapin Management Areas including Bald Head Island from March 1 - Oct 31 (details here).

This year, the Conservancy has partnered with the NC Division of Marine Fisheries and the Village of BHI to purchase TEDs and provide them to the public free of charge. Order TEDs (free while supplies last) by contacting conservation@bhic.org.
 

 


Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the reason for these regulations on Bald Head Island? I have never seen a terrapin here.
    • ‚Äč Each spring there are a number of dead terrapins that wash up on BHI beaches, and we suspect that they could be crab pot discards. You may not have seen terrapins because they are fairly small and secretive - sometimes you’ll just see their head popping up from the water for a moment before they dive down again! There is a known population of diamondback terrapins in the creeks of the Smith Island Complex and Zeke’s Island, just north of BHI. The populations in Bald Head Creek and Cape Creek are currently unknown, but we have documented a few adult and juvenile terrapins in these creeks this year. We encourage crab pot users to follow DMF regulations and make their crab pots terrapin safe. If you have more questions or concerns about these regulations, you can contact DMF biologist Joe Facendola ( joe.facendola@ncdenr.org).
  • Do TEDs reduce the amount of crabs that my pot can catch?
    • Scientific research says no. TEDs help reduce the number of diamondback terrapins caught in crab pots while not significantly affecting the number of legal-sized blue crabs caught (Chavez & Williard, 2017; Hart & Crowder, 2011).
  • That TED looks very small. How does a legal-sized blue crab fit in the opening?
    • Surprisingly, blue crabs with 5"+ carapace width will fit into this "South Carolina design" TED just fine... they turn diagonally and swim in sideways (legs first). This is based on extensive testing of various TED designs in a research study by Arendt et al. (2018).
  • What are the dimensions of this TED?
    • The "SC Design" has openings that are 7.3 cm (3") wide and a curved height that ranges from 5.1 to 6.4 cm tall. The TED we are producing for Bald Head Island follows the SC design and is 7.5 cm wide and 5.1-6.4 cm tall. This is based on recommendations by Arendt to widen the opening slightly to allow 99% of legal-sized crabs to enter the crab pot.
  • Can I use different kinds of TEDs in my crab pots?
    • There are a few different designs that are allowable according to the DMF. These include a rigid rectangle with dimensions of 1.6" x 6.3". However, this design was not as successful at retaining blue crabs or reducing terrapin bycatch as the "SC Design," according to the Arendt study.
  • Have TEDS been proven to work on Bald Head Island?
    • A study is currently being conducted by UNCW and DMF in the Smith Island Complex. We will share those results when we get them!

Terrapin Excluder Device Installation
You will need 2-5 TEDs per crab pot (1 per funnel/opening). Place a TED at the base of each funnel (narrow opening) and secure it with zip ties, hog rings, or wire. Video instructions here.
  • How else can I help conserve diamondback terrapins?
    • Spread the word about TEDs! All crab pots should have them in areas where terrapins might be living.
    • Report all sightings of diamondback terrapins (dead or alive) by calling our Wildlife Response Hotline (910-457-0089 x5)
    • Consider being a Terrapin Tally volunteer (kayaking and counting terrapins) next spring: for more information, email conservation@bhic.org
References
Arendt, M. D., Schwenter, J. A., Dingle, J., Evans, C. A., Waldrop, E., Czwartacki, B., Fowler, A. E. & Whitaker, J. D. 2018. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 38, 1-13.

Chavez, S. & Williard, A. S. 2017. Fisheries Research 186, 94-101. 

Hart, K. M. & Crowder L. B. 2011. Journal of Wildlife Management 75, 264-272.

 
 
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