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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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ARTICLE
Year : 2010  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 55-72

Changing taste preferences, market demands and traditions in Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua: A community reliant on green turtles for income and nutrition


1 Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA
2 Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, USGS-Biological Resources Division, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

Correspondence Address:
Kathryn A Garland
Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.62675

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Caribbean Nicaragua has its own cultural logic that helps to explain the eating habits of indigenous communities that rely on sea turtle meat for nutrition and prefer its taste to that of other available meats. Nutritional costs and benefits form a fundamental part of this reliance, yet there are ecological, economic, cultural, and other factors that may be just as if not more important than the nutritional value of turtle meat. Caribbean Nicaraguans have legally harvested green turtles (Chelonia mydas) for more than 400 years, and continue to rely on the species as an inexpensive and tasty source of protein and income. From 1967 to 1977, green turtles were harvested for both local and foreign consumption, including annual exports to the US and Europe from turtle packing plants in Nicaragua in excess of 10,000 turtles. Although the processing plants have been closed for over 30 years after Nicaragua became a signatory of CITES in 1977, the local demand for turtle meat in coastal communities has continued. Following themes of cultural ecology and ecological anthropology, we first discuss what is known about the traditional culture of Caribbean Nicaragua, in particular the history of its changing economy (after European contact and settlement on the coast) and subsistence lifestyle of Miskito and Creole societies on the coast. Second, we provide background information on regional ethnic identity and the human ecology of the Caribbean Nicaragua sea turtle fishery. We then present a quantitative analysis of the relationship between protein preference and various demographic characteristics, and speculate whether protein preferences have been altered in the coastal culture, providing recommendations for future research. Recent studies present disparate views on whether nesting and foraging green turtle populations are increasing or decreasing in the region: in either case the level of harvest makes the topic of protein preference an important and relevant consideration in conservation.


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