Skip to main content

The socio-cultural benefits and costs of the traditional hunting of dugongs Dugong dugon and green turtles Chelonia mydas in Torres Strait, Australia

  • Aurélie Delisle (a1), Milena Kiatkoski Kim (a2), Natalie Stoeckl (a3), Felecia Watkin Lui (a4) and Helene Marsh (a2)...

Signatory states of the Convention on Biological Diversity must ‘protect and encourage the customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements’. Thus the management of traditional hunting of wildlife must balance the sustainability of target species with the benefits of hunting to traditional communities. Conservation policies usually define the values associated with wild meats in terms of income and nutrition, neglecting a wide range of social and cultural values that are important to traditional hunting communities. We elicited the community-defined benefits and costs associated with the traditional hunting of dugongs Dugong dugon and green turtles Chelonia mydas from communities on two islands in Torres Strait, Australia. We then used cognitive mapping and multidimensional scaling to identify separable groups of benefits (cultural services, provisioning services, and individual benefits) and demonstrate that traditional owners consider the cultural services associated with traditional hunting to be significantly more important than the provisioning services. Understanding these cultural values can inform management actions in accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity. If communities are unable to hunt, important cultural benefits are foregone. Based on our results, we question the appropriateness of conservation actions focused on prohibiting hunting and providing monetary compensation for the loss of provisioning services only.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The socio-cultural benefits and costs of the traditional hunting of dugongs Dugong dugon and green turtles Chelonia mydas in Torres Strait, Australia
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The socio-cultural benefits and costs of the traditional hunting of dugongs Dugong dugon and green turtles Chelonia mydas in Torres Strait, Australia
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The socio-cultural benefits and costs of the traditional hunting of dugongs Dugong dugon and green turtles Chelonia mydas in Torres Strait, Australia
      Available formats
Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Hide All

Also at: James Cook University, College of Science and Engineering, Douglas, Queensland, Australia

Also at: University of Wollongong, Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources & Security, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

Also at: James Cook University, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Centre, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Supplementary material for this article is available at

Hide All
ABS (2006a) Mabuiag (IC) (IARE 15027), Indigenous Profile. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, Australia. Http:// [accessed 10 April 2012].
ABS (2006b) St Pauls (IC) (IARE 15017), Indigenous Profile. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, Australia. Http:// [accessed 10 April 2012].
ABS (2011) Census of Population and Housing—Counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Catalogue Number 2075.0. Http:// [accessed 6 November 2014].
Adamowicz, W.L., Boxall, P., Williams, M. & Louviere, J. (1998) Stated preference approaches for measuring passive use values: choice experiments and contingent valuation. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 80, 6475.
Allebone-Webb, S.M., Kümpel, N.F., Rist, J., Cowlishaw, G., Rowcliffe, J.M. & Milner-Gulland, E.J. (2011) Use of market data to assess bushmeat hunting sustainability in Equatorial Guinea. Conservation Biology, 25, 597606.
Altman, J.C. (1987) Hunter-Gatherers Today: An Aboriginal Economy in North Australia. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, Australia.
Axelrod, R. (1976) Structure of Decision: The Cognitive Maps of Political Elites. Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA.
Baggio, J.A., BurnSilver, S.B., Arenas, A., Magdanz, J.S., Kofinas, G.P. & De Domenico, M. (2016) Multiplex social ecological network analysis reveals how social changes affect community robustness more than resource depletion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113, 1370813713.
Bassett, T.J. (2005) Card-carrying hunters, rural poverty, and wildlife decline in northern Côte d'Ivoire. The Geographical Journal, 171, 2435.
Bateman, I.J. & Great Britain Department for Transport (2002) Economic Valuation with Stated Preference Techniques: A Manual. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK.
Bélair, C., Ichikawa, K., Wong, B.Y.L. & Mulongoy, K.J. (eds) (2010) Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity in Socio-ecological Production Landscapes. Background to the ‘Satoyama Initiative for the Benefit of Biodiversity and Human Well-being’. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal, Canada.
BISE (2016) Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) v. 4.3. Http:// [accessed 17 January 2017].
Blake, B.F., Schulze, S. & Hughes, J.M. (2003) Perceptual Mapping by Multidimensional Scaling: A Step by Step Primer. Cleveland State University, Cleveland, USA.
Bliege Bird, R.L. & Bird, D.W. (1997) Delayed reciprocity and tolerated theft: the behavioral ecology of food-sharing strategies. Current Anthropology, 38, 4978.
Bliege Bird, R.L., Smith, E.A. & Bird, D.W. (2001) The hunting handicap: costly signaling in human foraging strategies. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 50, 919.
Bowen-Jones, E. & Pendry, S. (1999) The threat to primates and other mammals from the bushmeat trade in Africa, and how this threat could be diminished. Oryx, 33, 233246.
Brashares, J.S., Arcese, P., Sam, M.K., Coppolillo, P.B., Sinclair, A.R.E. & Balmford, A. (2004) Bushmeat hunting, wildlife declines, and fish supply in West Africa. Science, 306, 11801183.
Brown, S.M. (1992) Cognitive mapping and repertory grids for qualitative survey research: some comparative observations. Journal of Management Studies, 29, 287307.
Burgess, C.P., Johnston, F.H., Berry, H.L., McDonnell, J., Yibarbuk, D., Gunabarra, C. et al. (2009) Healthy country, healthy people: the relationship between Indigenous health status and “caring for country”. Medical Journal of Australia, 190, 567572.
BurnSilver, S., Magdanz, J., Stotts, R., Berman, M. & Kofinas, G. (2016) Are mixed economies persistent or transitional? Evidence using social networks from Arctic Alaska. American Anthropologist, 118, 121129.
Butler, J.R.A., Tawake, A., Skewes, T., Tawake, L. & McGrath, V. (2012) Integrating traditional ecological knowledge and fisheries management in the Torres Strait, Australia: the catalytic role of turtles and dugong as cultural keystone species. Ecology and Society, 17, 34,
Carbone, J.C. & Kerry Smith, V. (2013) Valuing nature in a general equilibrium. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 66, 7289.
Carley, K. & Palmquist, M. (1992) Extracting, representing, and analyzing mental models. Social Forces, 70, 601636.
Chan, K.M.A., Guerry, A.D., Balvanera, P., Klain, S., Satterfield, T., Basurto, X. et al. (2012a) Where are cultural and social in ecosystem services? A framework for constructive engagement. BioScience, 62, 744756.
Chan, K.M.A., Satterfield, T. & Goldstein, J. (2012b) Rethinking ecosystem services to better address and navigate cultural values. Ecological Economics, 74, 818.
CITES (2017) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Appendices I, II and III. Http:// [accessed 21 September 2017].
Cleguer, C., Preston, S., Hagihara, R., Shimada, T., Udyawer, V., Hamann, M. et al. (2016) Working with the Community to Understand the Use of Space by Dugongs and Green Turtles in Torres Strait: A Project in Collaboration with the Mura Badulgal Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate. Report to the National Environmental Science Program, Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited, Cairns, Australia.
Cocks, M., López, C. & Dold, T. (2011) Cultural importance of non-timber forest products: opportunities they pose for bio-cultural diversity in dynamic societies. In Non-Timber Forest Products in the Global Context (eds Shackleton, S., Shackleton, C. & Shanley, P.), pp. 107128. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, Germany.
Coxon, A.P.M. (1999) Sorting Data: Collection and Analysis. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, USA.
Crookes, D.J. & Milner-Gulland, E.J. (2006) Wildlife and economic policies affecting the bushmeat trade: a framework for analysis. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 36, 159165.
Crouch, J.B., McNiven, I.J., David, B., Rowe, C. & Weisler, M. (2007) Berberass: marine resource specialisation and environmental change in Torres Strait during the past 4000 years. Archaeology in Oceania, 42, 4964.
Daniel, T.C., Muhar, A., Arnberger, A., Aznar, O., Boyd, J.W., Chan, K.M.A et al. (2012) Contributions of cultural services to the ecosystem services agenda. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109, 88128819.
Day, B., Bateman, I.J., Carson, R.T., Dupont, D., Louviere, J.J., Morimoto, S. et al. (2012) Ordering effects and choice set awareness in repeat-response stated preference studies. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 63, 7391.
de Groot, R.S., Wilson, M.A. & Boumans, R.M.J. (2002) A typology for the classification, description and valuation of ecosystem functions, goods and services. Ecological Economics, 41, 393408.
Delisle, A. (2013) A socio-economic investigation of the Torres Strait Indigenous dugong and turtle fisheries. PhD thesis. James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.
Duffy, R., St John, F.A.V., Büscher, B. & Brockington, D. (2016) Toward a new understanding of the links between poverty and illegal wildlife hunting. Conservation Biology, 30, 1422.
Fiol, C.M. & Huff, A.S. (1992) Maps for managers: Where are we? Where do we go from here? Journal of Management Studies, 29, 267285.
Fitzpatrick-Nietschmann, J. (1980) Another way of dying: the social and cultural context of death in a Melanesian community, Torres Strait. PhD thesis. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.
Fuentes, M.M.P.B., Bell, I., Hagihara, R., Hamann, M., Hazel, J., Huth, A. et al. (2015) Improving in-water estimates of marine turtle abundance by adjusting aerial survey counts for perception and availability biases. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 471, 7783.
Gneezy, U., Meier, S. & Rey-Biel, P. (2011) When and why incentives (don't) work to modify behavior. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 25, 191210.
Gregory, R., Failing, L. & Harstone, M. (2007) Meaningful resource consultations with First Peoples: notes from British Columbia. Environment, 50, 3645.
Haddon, A.C. (1912) Reports of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Strait. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Hagihara, R., Cleguer, C., Preston, S., Sobtzick, S., Hamann, M., Shimada, T. & Marsh, H. (2016) Improving the Estimates of Abundance of Dugongs and Large Immature and Adult-Sized Green Turtles in Western and Central Torres Strait. Report to the National Environmental Science Programme, Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited, Cairns, Australia.
Havemann, P. & Smith, R. (2007) Current Legislation and Policy Conducive to Sustainable Community Management of Dugong and Turtle Traditional Fisheries in the Torres Strait. James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.
Hobbs, B.F., Ludsin, S.A., Knight, R.L., Ryan, P.A., Biberhofer, J. & Ciborowski, J.J.H. (2002) Fuzzy cognitive mapping as a tool to define management objectives for complex ecosystems. Ecological Applications, 12, 15481565.
Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska (2015) Alaskan Inuit Food Security Conceptual Framework: How to Assess the Arctic from an Inuit Perspective. Technical Report. Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska, Anchorage, USA.
Kalland, A. (2012) Unveiling the Whale: Discourses on Whales and Whaling. Berghahn Books, New York, USA.
Kruskal, J.B. & Wish, M. (1978) Multidimensional Scaling. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, USA.
Kwan, D. (2002) Towards a sustainable indigenous fishery for dugongs in Torres Strait: a contribution of empirical data analysis and process. PhD thesis. James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.
Kwan, D., Marsh, H. & Delean, S. (2006) Factors influencing the sustainability of customary dugong hunting by a remote indigenous community. Environmental Conservation, 33, 164171.
Limpus, C.J. (2008) A Biological Review of Australian Marine Turtle Species. 2. Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas (Linnaeus). Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, Australia.
Limpus, C.J. & Parmenter, C.J. (1986) The sea turtle resource of the Torres Strait region. In Torres Strait Fisheries Seminar (eds Haines, A.K., Williams, G.C. & Coates, D.), pp. 95107. Australian Publishing Services, Canberra, Australia.
Marsh, H., Grayson, J., Grech, A., Hagihara, R. & Sobtzick, S. (2015) Re-evaluation of the sustainability of a marine mammal harvest by indigenous people using several lines of evidence. Biological Conservation, 192, 324330.
Marsh, H., Grech, A. & Hagihara, R. (2011a) Aerial Survey of Torres Strait to Evaluate the Efficacy of an Enforced and Possibly Extended Dugong Sanctuary as One of the Tools for Managing the Dugong Fishery. James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.
Marsh, H., O'Shea, T.J. & Reynolds, J.E. (2011b) Ecology and Conservation of the Sirenia: Dugongs and Manatees. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
McNiven, I.J. (2010) Navigating the human–animal divide: marine mammal hunters and rituals of sensory allurement. World Archaeology, 42, 215230.
Mendoza, G.A. & Prabhu, R. (2003) Qualitative multi-criteria approaches to assessing indicators of sustainable forest resource management. Forest Ecology and Management, 174, 329343.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA.
Momtaz, S. & Gladstone, W. (2008) Ban on commercial fishing in the estuarine waters of New South Wales, Australia: community consultation and social impacts. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 28, 214225.
Mosimane, A.W., McCool, S., Brown, P. & Ingrebretson, J. (2014) Using mental models in the analysis of human–wildlife conflict from the perspective of a social–ecological system in Namibia. Oryx, 48, 6470.
Nasi, R., Brown, D., Wilkie, D., Bennett, E., Tutin, C., van Tol, G. & Christophersen, T. (2008) Conservation and Use of Wildlife-Based Resources: The Bushmeat Crisis. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal, Canada, and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia.
Nietschmann, B.Q. (1981) Good dugong, bad dugong; good turtle, bad turtle. Natural History, 90, 5562.
Nietschmann, B.Q. (1984) Hunting and ecology of dugongs and green turtles in Torres Strait. National Geographic Society Research Reports, 17, 625651.
Nyaki, A., Gray, S.A., Lepczyk, C.A., Skibins, J.C. & Rentsch, D. (2014) Local-scale dynamics and local drivers of bushmeat trade. Conservation Biology, 28, 14031414.
OESR (Office of Economic and Statistical Research) (2013) Indigenous Regional Profiles Census 2011. Http:// [accessed 16 January 2014].
Özesmi, S.L. & Özesmi, U. (1999) An artificial neural network approach to spatial habitat modelling with interspecific interaction. Ecological Modelling, 116, 1531.
Özesmi, S.L. & Özesmi, U. (2003) A participatory approach to ecosystem conservation: fuzzy cognitive maps and stakeholder group analysis in Uluabat Lake, Turkey. Environmental Management, 31, 518531.
Penny, D.H. & Moriarty, J. (1977) The Aboriginal economy—then and now. In The Nutrition of Aborigines in Relation to the Ecosystem of Central Australia (eds Hetze, B.S. & Frith, H.J.), pp. 1924. CSIRO Publishing Services, Adelaide, Australia.
Peterson, N. (2013) On the persistence of sharing: personhood, asymmetrical reciprocity, and demand sharing in the Indigenous Australian domestic moral economy. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 24, 166176.
Plagányi, E.E., van Putten, I., Hutton, T., Deng, R.A., Dennis, D., Pascoe, S. et al. (2013) Integrating indigenous livelihood and lifestyle objectives in managing a natural resource. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110, 36393644.
Radomski, P.J. & Goeman, T.J. (1996) Decision making and modeling in freshwater sport-fisheries management. Fisheries, 21, 1421.
Reo, N.J. & Whyte, K.P. (2012) Hunting and morality as elements of traditional ecological knowledge. Human Ecology, 40, 1527.
Robards, M.D. & Lovecraft, A.L. (2010) Evaluating comanagement for social–ecological fit: Indigenous priorities and agency mandates for Pacific walrus. Policy Studies Journal, 38, 257279.
Robards, M.D. & Reeves, R.R. (2011) The global extent and character of marine mammal consumption by humans: 1970–2009. Biological Conservation, 144, 27702786.
Rogers, A.A., Kragt, M.E., Gibson, F.L., Burton, M.P., Petersen, E.H. & Pannell, D.J. (2015) Non-market valuation: usage and impacts in environmental policy and management in Australia. The Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 59, 115.
Rose, D. (1996) Nourishing Terrains: Australian Aboriginal Views of Landscape and Wilderness. Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra, Australia.
Rosenberg, S. & Kim, M.P. (1975) The method of sorting as a data-gathering procedure in multivariate research. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 10, 489502.
Seminoff, J.A. (Southwest Fisheries Science Center, U.S.) (2004) Chelonia mydas. In The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T4615A11037468. Http:// [accessed 21 September 2017].
Severance, C., Franco, R., Hamnett, M., Anderson, C. & Aitaoto, F. (2013) Effort triggers, fish flow, and customary exchange in American Samoa and the Northern Marianas: critical human dimensions of Western Pacific fisheries. Pacific Science, 67, 383393.
Sohou, Z., Dossou-Bodjrenou, J., Tchibozo, S., Chabi-Yaouré, F., Sinsin, B. & Van Waerebeek, K. (2013) Biodiversity and status of cetaceans in Benin, West Africa: an initial assessment. West African Journal of Applied Ecology, 21, 121134.
Stark, S. & Torrance, H. (2006) Case study. In Research Methods in the Social Sciences (eds Somekh, B. & Lewin, C.), pp. 3340. Sage Publications, London, UK.
Sutherland, J. (1995) Representations of indigenous peoples’ knowledge and practice in modern international law and politics. Australian Journal of Human Rights, 2, 3957.
Turner, N.J., Gregory, R., Brooks, C., Failing, L. & Satterfield, T. (2008) From invisibility to transparency: identifying the implications. Ecology and Society, 13(2), 7,
United Nations Environment Programme (2003) Cultural Diversity and Biodiversity for Sustainable Development. UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya.
Urwin, C., McNiven, I.J., Clarke, S., Macquarie, L. & Whap, T. (2016) Hearing the evidence: using archaeological data to analyse the long-term impacts of dugong (Dugong dugon) hunting on Mabuyag, Torres Strait, over the past 1000 years. Australian Archaeology, 82, 201217.
van Vliet, N., Nasi, R. & Taber, A. (2011) From the forest to the stomach: bushmeat consumption from rural to urban settings in Central Africa. In Non-Timber Forest Products in the Global Context (eds Shackleton, S., Shackleton, C. & Shanley, P.), pp. 129148. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, Germany.
Vaughan, M.B. & Vitousek, P.M. (2013) Mahele: sustaining communities through small-scale inshore fishery catch and sharing networks. Pacific Science, 67, 329344.
Venn, T.J. & Quiggin, J. (2007) Accommodating indigenous cultural heritage values in resource assessment: Cape York Peninsula and the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia. Ecological Economics, 61, 334344.
Voyer, M., Gladstone, W. & Goodall, H. (2014) Understanding marine park opposition: the relationship between social impacts, environmental knowledge and motivation to fish. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 24, 441462.
Watkin Lui, F., Stoeckl, N., Delisle, A., Kiatkoski Kim, M. & Marsh, H. (2016a) Motivations for sharing bushmeat with an urban diaspora in Indigenous Australia. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 21, 345360.
Watkin Lui, F., Kiatkoski Kim, M., Delisle, A., Stoeckl, N. & Marsh, H. (2016b) Setting the table: indigenous engagement on environmental issues in a politicized context. Society and Natural Resources, 29, 12631279.
Wenzel, G.W. (1995) Ningiqtuq: resource sharing and generalized reciprocity in Clyde River, Nunavut. Arctic Anthropology, 32, 4360.
Wenzel, G.W. (2009) Canadian Inuit subsistence and ecological instability—if the climate changes, must the Inuit? Polar Research, 28, 8999.
Wright, D. (2011) Mid Holocene maritime economy in the western Torres Strait. Archaeology in Oceania, 46, 2327.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Delisle et al supplementary material 1
Text and Table

 PDF (261 KB)
261 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed