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larger operation was carried out by the turtle fishing crew of the Wanderlust , based
at Palm Island; their catch records between November 1940 and March 1941
indicate that 6,652 lbs of turtle meat without bone and 939 lbs of turtle flippers
were produced (in addition to some dugong meat) . 9 At Bramble Cay, the large-
scale exploitation of green turtles was reported in 1953 by A. Mellor, Master
of the Melbidir , who stated: 'It is nothing for each of the four boats to load 50
or 60 turtles during the night'. Mellor also reported seeing 'as many as ten full
sized turtles dead on the Cay, where crews have turned them on their backs from
previous raids, and departed loaded '. 10
Other accounts of considerable destruction to turtles by commercial fishers
were published in 1950. F. A. McNeill, the Curator in Invertebrates at the
Australian Museum, wrote to the Honorary Secretary of the Great Barrier Reef
Committee (GBRC) about the exploitation of green turtle numbers. McNeill
stated that 16 to 18 green turtles were transported from Gladstone to Brisbane
each week during the egg-laying season. He emphasised the disproportionate
impacts on female green turtles, the inadequate recovery time between each
'period of butchering', the lack of enforcement of fishery regulations, and the
'conspicuous numerical dominance of males over females in the initial mating
season'. Similar sentiments were expressed by the Queensland Government
Tourist Bureau (QGTB), reflecting the concerns of many tourists about the
destruction of green turtles and the cruelty of the methods used in the industry . 11
On 7 September 1950, in an attempt to halt the destruction of green turtles,
an Order in Council prohibited the removal of green turtles or their eggs from
Queensland waters and foreshores . 12
Thus the commercial green turtle fisheries that had operated for almost five
decades in the southern Great Barrier Reef ceased. However, Limpus et al. (2003)
documented a brief revival in the industry that occurred in the northern Great
Barrier Reef due to successful lobbying by commercial fishers; as a result, earlier
legislation was repealed and a new Order in Council was passed on 4 September
1958 allowing the capture of green turtles in Queensland waters north of 15°S.
Commercial fishing re-commenced and approximately 1,200 green turtles
were caught in January and February of 1959 by the crew of the Trader Horn ,
although that harvest was not repeated due to doubts about the profitability of
the enterprise. That final episode of commercial turtle fishing ended when all of
Queensland's turtle species were designated as protected under the Queensland
Fisheries Act by an Order in Council of 18 July 1968. The evidence presented here
indicates that some intensive harvests of green turtles occurred in Queensland
over the course of about a century, with thousands of animals - predominantly
females - being caught for the production of turtle meat and soup. In 1999, the
Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service (QNPWS, 1999, p6) reported
that the population of green turtles in the Capricorn-Bunker Group displayed
'some characteristics consistent with excessive loss of adult turtles from the
population' - a loss that may be partly attributed to the impact of the commercial
turtle fishery.
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