Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
and eggs by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people formed an exception
to that legislation, provided that the harvest took place for consumption only
and without the use of explosives or poisons . 19 A ttempts to farm turtles in
Torres Straits were made during the 1970s, and large numbers of turtles and eggs
were manipulated as a result of that activity. The turtle farming enterprise in
Torres Straits was managed by Applied Ecology Pty Ltd, under the direction
of Dr Robert Bustard of the Australian National University (ANU), with the
support of the Queensland Department of Native Affairs (QDNA); it was
hoped that the initiative would provide employment for Torres Strait Islander
people who adopted turtle farming, in addition to providing a sustainable source
of a culturally-important food item. Arrangements were made for the removal
of juvenile turtles from Heron Island for the turtle farmers, since the juvenile
animals were thought not to be available in sufficient numbers at Murray Island
or Bramble Cay. As the proposed turtle farming did not fall under the exemption
to the harvest of turtles permitted by Indigenous people for consumption only, a
permit system was introduced, and arrangements were made for the Queensland
Minister for Primary Industries to delegate authority to the Queensland Director
of Aboriginal and Island Affairs to issue permits allowing Indigenous people
who did not normally live on reserves to harvest sixty turtles (as well as thirty
dugongs) per year . 20
By December 1970, turtle farming had commenced in Torres Strait at Darnley
and Murray Islands. Turtle pens, which were made of mangrove wood and which
extended into the sea, were constructed to contain the animals. Green turtle eggs
were imported to the farms; by September 1971, 2,000 green turtle eggs had been
transported from Bountiful Island, near Mornington Island, to Darnley Island,
where they were divided between farmers and reburied in the sand. However,
the eggs did not hatch reliably after they had been moved; consequently, captive
breeding of green turtles was attempted in Torres Strait. The intended markets for
the turtle products were the Master Foods Corporation, which had manufactured
turtle soup at a Sydney factory since around 1958, and which had received
between 23 and 30 tons of produce, and the British soup maker and turtle
merchant, John Lusty, who wished to launch turtle steaks on the London market.
In addition to the farming of green turtles for food, Bustard proposed farming the
hawksbill turtle for the manufacture of curios. He stated that 'the hawksbill turtle
has been heavily over-exploited and is held to be rapidly reaching a position
where it is directly threatened with worldwide extinction'. Bustard argued that
the conservation of that species could be promoted by farming the animals in a
sustainable manner and establishing a viable trade in hawksbill turtle products,
including tortoise-shell and curio s. 21 Other valuable turtle products included
turtle oil ('which is used in large quantities by the cosmetics industry'), skins,
leather and calipe e. 22
In April 1972, the farms at Darnley and Murray Islands were judged to
have been successful and the industry expanded; new farms were established at
Boigu, Yorke, Coconut, Yam, Stephen and Mornington Islands, and they were
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