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Figure 6.3 Exports of turtles from Queensland, 1867-1902. Source: Compiled from data
provided in SCQ , 1870-1900; SSQ , 1901-1902
Group and at Bramble and Pandora Cays, respectively. The industry operated
intermittently between 1867 and 1962, as substantial documentary and oral
history evidence attests. However, the opportunistic exploitation of green turtles
for food extended beyond those years. Early European explorers harvested turtles
as a supplement to the ship's diet; the crew of the Endeavour , for example, took
21 large turtles in 27 days, near the Endeavour River, while the ship was being
repaired (Limpus, 1980, p5). The harvesting of turtles in the Bunker Group
commenced in 1803, during a voyage made by Ebenezer Bunker, in order to
complement the provisions of sailing ships; that practice continued throughout
the nineteenth century. In 1843, for example, H.M.S. Fly was stocked with
turtles at Heron Island, and Jukes (1871, p172) stated that in the Bunker Group
turtles 'in the greatest abundance were taken […]. Turtle-soup, turtle-steaks,
turtle-pie, and stewed flippers were our regular food for some time'. Around 1865,
one report acknowledged the prevalence of turtles in Queensland bays (SPCK,
c. 1865, p254). However, the earliest evidence of the commercial harvest of
turtles for food is found in the export statistics published in the SCQ , which
indicate that the export of whole turtles from Queensland commenced in 1867;
another report, of 1872, described a large harvest of 122 green turtles at Lake
Creek, near Rockhampton, by one or two turtle-fishing boat s. 4 Exports of turtles
from Queensland for the period since 1867 are shown in Figure 6.3.
By 1886, a substantial turtle meat and soup industry had been established in
the Moreton Bay area, where the animals were reported to be 'most plentiful
in the summer months' (Fison, 1886, p835). A report by F. T. Campbell (1887,
p123) stated that:
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