The effects of sea turtle and other marine megafauna consumption in northeastern Madagascar

Emily Rothamel, Be Jean Rodolph Rasolofoniaina, Cortni Borgerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Sea turtles are essential to the health of marine ecosystems, yet nearly 90% are threatened with extinction. The unsustainable consumption of sea turtles contributes to their global decline. Because sea turtle meat is also high in heavy metals, the monitoring of sea turtle consumption is a priority for both marine conservation and public health. Despite this, sea turtle consumption was understudied along Madagascar’s eastern coastline. We used structured interviews (collected over nine years) in northeastern Madagascar to study the rural consumption of sea turtles and other marine megafauna (including dolphins, whales, and dugongs). Sea turtle consumption is increasing in the southwest Indian Ocean. Over 80% of households ate a mean of 1.47 kg of sea turtle meat per year over the prior decade. The vast majority of sea turtle meat was purchased. Households which were more financially and nutritionally secure ate significantly more sea turtle meat. Sea turtle meat did not provide a significant source of nutrients to insecure households. Thus, its elimination from the diet would be unlikely to economically or nutritionally harm consumers. In fact, sea turtle meat contributed significantly to heavy metal burdens within communities and reducing consumption is a key step toward ensuring both adequate public and environmental health. Social marketing campaigns on the content and effects of heavy metals in sea turtle meat paired with increased heavy metal testing of children and pregnant women, may benefit both local communities and marine conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-599
Number of pages10
JournalEcosystems and People
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Conservation
  • Houria Djoudi
  • Masoala
  • fishing
  • heavy metals
  • hunting
  • nutrition
  • ocean
  • public health

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