Home Institution

Washington State University

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Program Name

Madagascar: Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management

Abstract

The worldwide exploitation of marine turtles has been common throughout human history, turtle products including carapaces for decoration and use, skin for leather, and eggs and meat for consumption. The hunting of marine turtles has long established economic importance among Madagascar's coastal inhabitants and is an activity traditionally associated with integral cultural and spiritual values. Due to overexploitation and a combination of relatively newer threats such as pollution, habitat loss, and incidental fisheries take, however, all marine turtle species in the Indian Ocean are considered to be endangered or critically endangered. Although Madagascar's marine turtles have been legally protected from exploitation since the country's ratification of CITES in 1973, hunting still continues due to lack and difficulty of enforcement. Marine turtle capture has been monitored in the village of Ifaty in the Tulear region of southwest Madagscar by the UK NGO Reef Doctor since 2008 through the present year. Using the analysis of annual catch data as background, a pilot taste preference study was conducted as a means to gauge local demand for turtle meat, the main product used from marine turtles in the region, and to determine any existing relationships between meat preference and demographic characteristics of participants, most specifically age. Interviews were conducted over a period of 1 week in the village of Ifaty. Study findings include turtle meat being the 4th most preferred among 8 available meat sources and the most expensive available meat in the village. By age group, turtle meat was ranked 4th by participants in age groups 18-26, 27-35, and 36-50. Participants in the age group 50 and older ranked turtle meat as their 3rd most preferred meat. The annual catch of marine turtles averaged over 2008-2010 revealed an average of 134 turtles caught per year with the majority being female green sea turtles between 50-90 cm in straight carapace length, trending toward the capture of turtles greater than 70 cm. Estimations for marine turtle populations in the area are nonexistent but the high current national population growth rate and increasing number of coastal migrants coupled with an unchanging demand for turtle meat may suggest future increases in demand on the marine turtle fishery.

Disciplines

Aquaculture and Fisheries | Environmental Law | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology