Forbidden Sea Turtles: Traditional Laws Pertaining to Sea Turtle Consumption in Polynesia (Including the Polynesian Outliers)

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Date
2010
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Abstract
"Throughout the Pacific regions of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia, sea turtles are recognised as culturally significant species. The specifics of human–sea turtle interactions in these regions, however, are not well known, in part because ethnographic and historic reports documenting these interactions are scattered, requiring extensive archival research. Ethnographic and environmental data collected over a ten-year period are analysed to assess patterns of human–sea turtle interactions prior to (and sometimes beyond) Western contact. From the ethnographic data for Polynesia, a region-wide pattern emerges where sea turtle consumption was restricted to special ceremonies when the elites such as chiefs and priests but no one else ate turtle. Only in two countries did this pattern differ. Environmental data does little to elucidate explanations for this region-wide treatment of sea turtles as restricted food sources, as there is no correlation between environmental variability and the presence or absence of these restrictions. Instead the results of this research suggest such practices may have been part of an ancestral Polynesian society, developing well before human settlement into this region of the Pacific."
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sea turtles, oceans, culture, indigenous knowledge, conservation
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