Traditional Use

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have lived along the east coast of Queensland for more than 60,000 years and the Great Barrier Reef is their ‘sea country.’

It is a central part of their culture, spirituality and livelihoods, and is where they undertake traditional hunting and fishing, ceremonies, stories and look after their country.

This traditional use of marine resources is undertaken as part of Traditional Owner custom and tradition for personal, domestic or communal needs.


Traditional use of marine resources by Traditional Owners is allowed under all zones in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan.

A number of Traditional Owner groups are working in partnership with government agencies to conserve and protect species and ecosystems by documenting their aspirations and future plans for sea country management through agreements.

These agreements include Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements, Indigenous Land Use Agreements and memoranda of understanding.

In the Great Barrier Reef Region, there are seven accredited Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements (covering 43,221 square kilometres) and one Indigenous Land Use Agreement.

In addition, some Traditional Owner groups have agreed arrangements within their communities for sea country management, but have chosen not to formalise these arrangements with government agencies.


Impacts from traditional use, mainly through hunting, fishing and collecting, are thought to have only minor or localised effects.

Though traditional use is considered largely sustainable, some culturally important species such as dugongs are facing multiple other threats.

Green turtles and dugong are vulnerable to a range of impacts including boat strike, habitat degradation, bycatch, pollutants, marine debris and disease.

In response, some Traditional Owners have voluntarily agreed not to hunt dugongs for a period of time.

Illegal hunting of threatened species by people who are not Traditional Owners (known as poaching) is a concern of Traditional Owners and managing agencies, and is a focus of compliance efforts in the Great Barrier Reef region.

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