UN endorses marine conservation project

An ambitious four-year marine conservation project supported by The University of Notre Dame Australia has been endorsed by the Ocean Decade – a UNESCO program to manage ocean sustainability.

The ‘Yagarrajalajalan nagula buru’ project is being led by Murdoch University and Nyamba Buru Yawuru, with support from the Nulungu Research Institute.

It will use a combination of Indigenous knowledge and western science on the jointly managed marine park Yawuru Nagulagun (Roebuck Bay), focusing on green turtle and dugong populations.

The project is one of more than 400 endorsed Decade Actions worldwide, which work towards the goal of managing ocean sustainability and achieving the ‘ocean we want’ by 2030.

The project tackles a problem of great importance to resource managers around the world: how equity in resource management can be achieved with First Nations peoples.

It is expected to deliver social, environmental and economic benefits by developing strategies to resolve potential conflict and increase collaboration through better management and communication.

“This will also contribute to shared understanding of the importance of Yawuru saltwater Country and rich biodiversity as we seek to address the complex economic, social and cultural values,” Lloyd Pigram, Research Fellow at Notre Dame, said.

The management of green turtle and dugong populations in Roebuck Bay provides an important case study on the opportunities and challenges of shared marine resources in cross-cultural settings.

Traditional Owners throughout much of northern Australia have deep cultural ties and a long history of harvesting green turtles and dugongs. These species are also protected, important for tourism operators and play integral roles in local ecosystems, as well as being intrinsically values by broad parts of society.

Project lead, Murdoch University’s Dr Adrian Gleiss, said marine environments held shared resources that were accessed by a range of stakeholders with different interests and responsibilities, creating potential barriers for effective management.

“We are concentrating on a single jointly managed marine park in Western Australia, Yawuru Nagulagun (Roebuck Bay) and working with both joint managers: the Yawuru Traditional Owners and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, to create a thorough understanding of the social, cultural and ecological forces that influence and inform local, national and global conservation practices,” he said.

Nyamba Buru Yawuru representative Dean Mathews said the research would have a significant impact on the local community.

“The cross-cultural research aims to identify and document which areas of Roebuck Bay have importance for customary practices surrounding the use of these marine resources, as well as identify areas of importance for recreational activities within the marine park,” he said.

“Together, this will help identify what management practices can be used to ensure the cultural, recreational, social and environmental values of the marine park are managed sustainably now and into the future.”

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