A ban on commercial harvesting of Florida's freshwater turtles –the nation's strongest measure – takes effect Monday.
The historic ban was passed by The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted last month in an attempt to protect more than two dozen species.
Florida is a hotspot for hunters reacting a worldwide appeal. Turtle meat is considered a delicacy in Asian markets; the shell is used in traditional Chinese medicine.
The new rule prohibits the commercial harvest and sale of freshwater turtles in Florida and the collection of turtle eggs.
Critics say the ban goes too far but Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Pat Behnke disagrees. "I think that anytime you're protecting species in Florida, we have some of the most precious and unique and abundant species in Florida, and anytime you're taking measures to conserve them, you're not going too far."
The one exception to the law is Florida's turtle farms. They will be able to collect turtles for breeding for at least two years. The goal is to give farms the ability to become self-sufficient and develop their own stock.
The numbers collected by licensed turtle farms will be limited.