Saturday, December 13, 2008

Legal harvest of turtles...

In times past, when Seychelles was a young nation and there was no fillet steak from Brazil, turkey from South Africa or leg of lamb from New Zealand, you ate fish which was in abundance. Most families kept some chickens, not so much to eat but for the eggs which were sold to supplement the family income. Life was hard then and to come across a turtle whilst fishing or on the beach was cause for celebration for it was red meat with a capitol M, a welcome addition to the diet.

The turtle season was anticipated, as we now anticipate Christmas, since there was money to be had. Green turtles were killed for eating and Hawksbill turtles for their shell, which was sold and made into trinkets like spectacle frames combs, guitar picks and cuff links.

On the outer islands fishermen were employed to catch fish for the workers and fish for salting. Occasionally a turtle would be killed and the meat divided, a portion going to each worker as part of his food ration. Sometimes they would upturn the carapace on the barbecue or fire, seasoning the meat inside with spices. Then when cooked, all would sit around the carapace with their bread and eating irons helping themselves to the feast.

Turtle were also harpooned, to be shipped to Mahe. Their wound would be plugged and they would be sent to the Old Pier where there was a turtle park….a pond where they were kept. On a Saturday a couple would be slaughtered and their meat sold in the market.

This happened not centuries ago, but in living memory.

Most of our older generation will have eaten and enjoyed turtle meat but that was in another time. It was a time when tigers were hunted for trophies and to go on a safari shoot meant you go with guns and not cameras, a time when fur coats were made of real fur and not fun fur. That time is gone. Now we are reaping the bitter harvest of our past excesses.Turtles are now so few in numbers that all of the turtle species are endangered or critically endangered.

…. News from Patricia

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