Exploiting Green and Hawksbill Turtles in Western Australia: The Commercial Marine Turtle Fishery

Chapter
Part of the MARE Publication Series book series (MARE, volume 12)

Abstract

Many attempts were made to exploit both the green and hawksbill turtle commercially from the mid-1800s. The first commercial export of hawksbill tortoiseshell appeared in the Western Australian trade tables in 1869 and the green turtle fishing industry operated intermittently between 1870 and 1961 prior to the industry becoming successfully established in the 1960s. Historical evidence suggests that up to 55,125 (archival records) and 69,000 (oral histories) green turtles were potentially harvested from Western Australian waters prior to the industry being closed down in 1973. Upper estimates indicate that 20,445 hawksbill turtles were harvested from northern Western Australia over the course of 84 years. It is argued that the exploitation of green turtles led to an observable decline in the numbers of these animals and it is likely that the fishing effort for the tortoise shell industry had an adverse impact on hawksbill turtle populations in the State’s north-west. In a global context, the exploitation of the green and hawksbill turtles in Western Australia occurred at a time when there was an extensive international harvest of marine turtles. The relatively small-scale harvest that took place in Western Australia is likely to have been a factor contributing to the green and hawksbill populations of Western Australia being some of the largest populations remaining in the world. This research provides a detailed historical account of the commercial exploitation of marine turtles in Western Australia, including empirical accounts of the total number of animals harvested from turtle populations throughout the State.

Keywords

Australian marine environmental history Marine turtle fishing Ningaloo Reef Green turtle (Chelonia mydasHawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the individuals involved in the commercial turtle fishing industry who shared their knowledge and experience in such an open and generous manner. Their contribution has been fundamental to the preparation of this chapter and I am sincerely thankful to have been given the opportunity to document their stories and insights. Thank you to everyone who took the time to review my draft manuscripts and provide me with much appreciated feedback and suggestions. Thanks also to staff at Department of Fisheries, Department of Environment and Conservation, State Library of Western Australia and the State Records Office of Western Australia for their invaluable assistance with my archival research. Full bibliographic references to archival sources and appendices listing export trade figures and catch records can be found in Halkyard (2009). This work has been funded courtesy of the History of Marine Animal Populations project and supported by the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Parks and WildlifeExmouthAustralia

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