, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 399-405

Fat, fishing patterns, and health among the bardi people of North Western Australia

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Abstract

Research into the resource use strategies of the Bardi Aboriginal People of One Arm Point, Western Australia, found that they maximize the consumption of specific beneficial marine FA. The Bardi assess the relative fatness of fish and animal species in their enviroment, procuring fish and marine species only when they are considered to be at their fattest stage: during specific seasons; at specific physiological life stages, or through on-site evaluation. In June 1999 and September 2000, samples of fish, dugong, oyster, and turtle were collected by Bardi fishermen, focusing specifically on species considered to be high in fat content and very popular among the Bardi. Nine species were analyzed for total lipids and FA profile, which were determined by capillary GLC. Comparative lipid analysis established that the Bardi hunters' selection process between species and within species and the selection of specific fish fat deposits increase the levels of beneficial FA made available to the community. Bardi fishing and hunting patterns meet a demand for fat within the community and may protect many species of fish whose spawning season is inversely related to the accumulation of the specific gut fat deposits sought by the Bardi. These fat deposits make up for the relatively low levels of fat in the flesh of tropical fish. The Bardi model provides important insights into the nature of human-environment interaction and expands our understanding of the role that warmer-water fisheries can play in human health.