Traditional Owners leading the way in species conservation

Published: 23/09/2011

Nywaigi and Girramay Traditional Owners are continuing their temporary hunting suspension of green turtle and dugong in their sea country offshore Cardwell in north Queensland.

The decision by the Traditional Owners is one of several actions they're undertaking to protect these iconic animals of the Great Barrier Reef that have been affected by extreme weather and seagrass die-off.

The Nywaigai and Girramay Traditional Owner groups make up two of the six saltwater groups that are represented by the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation.

Nywaigi Traditional Owner and CEO of Girringun Aboriginal Corporation Phil Rist said they were taking action to ensure the long-term sustainability of these species.

"We share the community's concern about these species," he said.

"Our decision to temporarily suspend hunting in our sea country is our own way of directly supporting the Great Barrier Reef that has been important to our people for over 60,000 years.

"As Traditional Owners we are actively involved in sea country management, and are looking forward to working with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on monitoring and research.

"We are not calling for a broad-scale moratorium on the hunting of green turtle and dugong, but encourage others to get involved in sea country management."

In the coming months the Girringun rangers with their Elders and youth will assist with tagging turtles and dugong in their sea country with satellite transmitters.

The transmitters will track the animals' movements and show how they're using the remaining seagrass beds in the Girringun sea country area.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority species expert Dr Mark Read said it was valuable to have Nywaigi and Girramay Traditional Owners leading species conservation activities in their sea country.

"This monitoring is important to helping build our understanding of how these animals are being affected by extreme weather and seagrass die-off," he said.

"We can work collaboratively with Traditional Owners and management agencies to implement management responses to protect these species long-term.

"By working with the Girringun rangers, we hope to also gather traditional ecological knowledge that we can combine with the scientific information collected through the monitoring project."

Dr Read said there had been a major increase in the number of sick and dead green turtles and dugong being found across the Marine Park and the Girringun sea country area was no different.

Both green turtles and dugong are struggling with a food shortage due to the degradation of seagrass beds, the species' main food source.To date in 2011, 132 dugong and 910 turtle deaths have occurred across all Queensland waters.

This is compared to 64 dugong and 502 turtle deaths for the same period last year.A Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreement is in place over Girringun sea country. 

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