Exchange of gifts at the Mexico symposium: Frank Loban, TSRA, (far
left) holds a sea turtle carving presented to the Australian
delegation by the Seri Indians. Djawa Yunupingu (second left)
Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation, north-east Arnhem
Land, presents a yidaki (didjeridu) on behalf of the Yolngu people.
Frank Loban also presented the Seri with a framed Dhari (Torres
Strait headdress) on behalf of the Torres Strait people.
A WEEK-long international celebration of Indigenous cultural
practices and management of marine turtles was held at a symposium
in Mexico in January, but the experience gained by four Indigenous
land and sea managers from the Torres Strait and north-east Arnhem
Land will last a lifetime.
The small seaside town of Loreto, on the Mexican Baja California
Peninsula, hosted this year’s Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology
and Conservation. More than 1000 scientists, conservationists and
Indigenous land and sea managers from 60 nations converged on the
town to explore the theme, ‘Native Oceans’.
The symposium linked Indigenous people from Australia’s
northern coastal regions with the Seri Indians of Mexico and
facilitated the exchange of both cultural and technical information
of marine turtle species. The Torres Strait Regional
Authority’s (TSRA) Chairperson Toshie Kris, said he was
pleased that three representatives from the Torres Strait,
including TSRA’s Dugong and Marine Turtle Project Liaison
Officer and James Cook University Masters’ student Frank
Loban, participated in the international event.
“Such opportunities are invaluable and with the marine
turtle playing a critical role in the Torres Strait’s culture
and way of life, it is important that our people learn how to
sustainabably manage this importance species,” said Mr
Frank Loban said the opportunity to travel to Mexico for the
symposium was an important learning experience and that the
highlight was the coming together of Indigenous people from across
the world, sharing ideas and knowledge about turtle conservation
and its significance to Indigenous lifestyles and livelihoods.
“Indigenous people from places like Mexico and Venezuela
have been involved in turtle conservation for a long time and we
can learn from their experiences,” he said.
Frank explained that the management of Turtle and Dugong by
Indigenous people was critical. “Turtles are species that are
harvested by Indigenous peoples for subsistence, medicinal and
cultural purposes, so it is important that the primary custodians
using the resource are involved in conserving it,” he
“We don’t want to be talking to our children about
turtles from a book, we want to make sure we can continue
harvesting and managing them and that future generations will get a
chance to see a real, live turtle.”
The delegation attended through a partnership between NAILSMA,
TSRA, Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation, James Cook
University and US organisation, Ocean Revolution. Travel funding
was provided by JCU and The Christensen Fund. The next symposium
will be held in February 2009, in Brisbane.