Traditional Use

Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders have lived along the east coast of Queensland for over 60,000 years and the Great Barrier Reef is their ‘sea country.’

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

This is known as traditional use of marine resources - undertaking activities as part of Traditional Owner custom and tradition to satisfy personal, domestic or communal needs.


Traditional use of marine resources is allowed under the Zoning Plan and in all zones (including non-extractive use in Preservation Zones).

Traditional Owners can formalise their aspirations for sea country management through agreements involving government agency partners.

These include Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements (TUMRAs), Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs).

In the Great Barrier Reef Region, there are seven accredited TUMRAs and one marine ILUA in place (covering 45,207km2).

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.


Traditional use, mainly through hunting, fishing and collecting, involves a range of marine species but overall levels of take are thought to be low.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority works with Traditional Owners and scientists to access the best information available on culturally-important species such as dugong and green turtles.

Scientists can estimate the total losses these populations can withstand and still maintain population recovery or increases. Traditional Owners use these estimates as the basis for determining ecologically sustainable levels of take for these animals.

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

Current responsible hunting by Traditional Owners is considered to be sustainable, provided other threats are addressed.

Illegal hunting of threatened species by people who are not Traditional Owners (known as poaching) is a concern of Traditional Owners and managing agencies.