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wild turtle populations. In Torres Strait, captive turtles experienced a mortality
rate of 80 per cent during the first month of their lives; larger turtles kept in
overcrowded conditions succumbed to sickness and death from bloat.
The Committee found that previous efforts to ensure that 10 per cent of
hatchlings were returned to the sea were ineffective: only eighteen turtles had been
returned by mid-July 1973. Furthermore, those turtles that were returned were
not healthy and undamaged; rather, blemished turtles that could not be sold as
curios were returned and those experienced increased vulnerability to predation
after their release. The Committee found that, in any case, given the excessive
mortality rates that characterised the industry, a 10 per cent return rate of animals
was far too low. In its evaluation of the overall impacts of the industry, the report
stated: 'It appears to the Committee that the commercial aims of the enterprise
have dwarfed the conservation aims'. Therefore, the Committee recommended:
(a) that turtle farming should cease as a commercially-orientated undertaking; (b)
that the activity should be re-established with an emphasis on research into the
ecology of green and hawksbill turtles and on conservation per se , rather than on
the exploitation of those species; and (c) that particular attention should be given
to the conservation of the hawksbill turtle, which had become 'seriously depleted'
throughout its range . 33 Subsequently, the industry was restructured to focus on
research and monitoring activities. With the shift in emphasis from commercial
to research activities, turtle farming declined in Torres Strait; in December 1978,
E. Gibson wrote that the farms at Kubin, Coconut and Yam Islands had closed . 34
Despite the reorganisation of the industry, concerns about the status of the
turtle populations persisted. Limpus stated: 'Through most of its range the
hawksbill turtle is considered a conservation problem'; as such, the species was
considered to be endangered and actively threatened with extinction . 35 The
turtle-farming operation - even if it was intended for purposes of scientific
research - was by 1979 regarded as incompatible with the aims and methods of
wildlife conservation. In September 1979, leaders of the Badu Island Council
wrote to Charles Porter, the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders
Advancement, referring to the closure of the turtle farming operation. The
Councillors were forced to consider alternatives to turtle farming, including
fishing, although the latter activity was reported to be poor. The Council stated:
'Southern trawlers have been stripping these reefs of everything they can get
over the past few years. They have cleared out many of the reefs' . 36 T he cessation
of turtle farming in Torres Strait left social and economic challenges to be faced
by the former turtle farmers and their dependents; yet, with the passing of that
industry, a source of disturbance to vulnerable turtle populations was removed.
Indigenous hunting of marine turtles
The hunting of marine turtles is a culturally significant activity for some
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who had developed considerable
expertise in hunting turtles by the time of European settlement. McCarthy
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