Ms Katie Oxenham1, Ms Harriet Davies2
1Anindilyakwa Land & Sea Rangers, Alyangula, Australia, 2Australian Institute of Marine Science, Perth, Australia
The Anindilyakwa Land Council (ALC) engaged the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in 2016 to undertake habitat mapping, quantify fish diversity, and assess sediment properties and contaminants in the sea country of the Anindilyakwa Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), which comprises the Groote Eylandt archipelago in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory. The project, which was completed in 2019, was undertaken in close collaboration with the ALC’s Land & Sea Rangers and other Traditional Owners, and facilitated two-way knowledge exchange that was invaluable to the successful implementation of the project. The project results illustrate the significant biodiversity values of the IPA’s sea country: its wide range of marine habitats supports very high fish species diversity, similar to parts of the Great Barrier Reef, and is relatively free of contaminants. Habitat maps that were prepared through the elicitation of traditional ecological knowledge were used to inform scientific surveys and the results of the contemporary scientific methods aligned closely with the knowledge held by Traditional Owners. The collaborative nature of the project facilitated opportunities for ranger training and skills development, particularly in relation to undertaking fish surveys using Baited Remote Underwater Videos Systems (BRUVS). Using these skills, the rangers designed and have now commenced implementation of an annual, BRUVs-based fish monitoring program, with a focus on species of cultural significance. The results from the monitoring program can be used as an indicator of sea country health, with a view to informing management of the marine environment.
Katie Oxenham has worked as IPA Coordinator & Ecologist with the Anindilyakwa Land & Sea Rangers on Groote Eylandt since January 2018. Her previous experience includes various biodiversity survey, monitoring and management programs in southern Australia, and working on community-based natural resource management programs in southern Africa.