The United States is home to a rich variety of freshwater and terrestrial turtles with 57 species, or approximately 18% of the world’s turtles found here. Many of these species are located in the southeastern United States, leading to the world’s second highest concentration of turtle species after southeastern Asia.

Some of these turtles are endangered or threatened due to exploitation and trade. They are also threatened by increased development and habitat loss. Turtles are traded primarily for the pet trade, food consumption or traditional medicines.

Laws & Regulations


Credit: Ploughshare Tortoise
Thomas Leuteritz/USFWS

A large number of tortoises and freshwater turtles are listed in Appendices I and II of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and all marine turtles are listed in Appendix I. In June, 2006, the United States listed the alligator snapping turtle (Macroclemys temminckii) and all species of map turtle (Graptemys spp.) in Appendix III of CITES. Effective November 21, 2016, the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), Florida softshell turtle (Apolone ferox), smooth softshell turtle (Apalone mutica), and spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera) were also listed in Appendix III. Including the turtles listed by the United States, there will be a total of 26 freshwater turtle species listed in Appendix III. To view a list of the United States species, click here.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) regulates the legal trade of turtles and ensures trade is conducted at sustainable levels. For more information on importing or exporting Appendix III turtles, please visit the Freshwater Turtles Permits Information webpage.

Workshops: Connecting Science and Industry

November, 2011: FWS Turtle Farming Best Management Practices Workshop in Baton Rouge, LA
As a follow up to one of the recommendations put forth at the St Louis Workshop in 2010 (see below), the Service hosted a workshop for all 16 States with turtle farms to develop best management practices for turtle farms operating in the United States. The workshop brought together a select number of specialists who deal with aquaculture, species management, wildlife trade management, turtles, turtle farming, health issues, water quality, invasive species, and genetic pollution – all topics relevant to turtle farms.

September, 2010: FWS Freshwater Turtle Workshop Meets in St. Louis, MO
The Service’s International Wildlife Trade Program convened a freshwater turtle workshop in St. Louis in September 2010 to discuss the pressing management, regulatory, scientific, and enforcement needs associated with the harvest and trade of freshwater turtles in the United States.

View the Workshop Presentations or read the Presentation Abstracts on the Archive page.
You can also read the Final Group Recommendations below:
Conservation Working Group pdf
Enforcement Working Group pdf
Management Working Group pdf