Boost to Marine Conservation Efforts with $650,000 Funding for Traditional Owner Partnerships

Boost to Marine Conservation Efforts with $650,000 Funding for Traditional Owner Partnerships

In a significant step forward for marine conservation, $650,000 has been awarded to two groundbreaking projects aimed at enhancing the monitoring and management of Australia’s marine parks by Traditional Owner groups. This funding supports collaborations between the University of Western Australia (UWA) and First Nations partners, focusing on sharing Sea Country knowledge and empowering Traditional Owners in marine park management. Boost to Marine Conservation Efforts with $650,000 Funding for Traditional Owner Partnerships

Strengthening Cultural Knowledge and Marine Management

The first project involves a partnership between UWA and six saltwater Bibbulmun Noongar groups in Western Australia’s South West. This collaboration aims to build and share knowledge about culturally significant marine life and identify management priorities for Sea Country. The initiative, known as the Waatu Wardan Kaartdijin project, seeks to incorporate Traditional Owner culture into the management strategies of Australian Marine Parks.

Dr. Matt Navarro from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences highlighted the importance of this initiative, stating, “The funding is crucial to helping First Nations people get more involved in setting priorities for the management of the marine parks. The Waatu Wardan Kaartdijin project represents a major partnership across saltwater Bibbulmun Noongar peoples.”

Protecting Key Reef Species with Traditional Knowledge

The second project partners UWA with the Mayala Inninalang Aboriginal Corporation to support the monitoring and protection of key reef species, such as trochus, which are culturally significant medium-to-large-sized, top-shaped sea snails. This project, led by Drs. Jane Prince, Renae Hovey, and Matilda Murley, aims to establish a monitoring program that enables Traditional Owners to manage their offshore marine resources effectively.

Dr. Murley emphasized the project’s impact, saying, “The project will allow the Mayala people to visit and connect with remote parts of their Sea Country and enable them to effectively manage these pristine marine ecosystems. An additional outcome will be the benchmarking of marine biodiversity in the Kimberley Marine Park.”

Government Support and Broader Conservation Initiatives

The funding announcement was made at the UWA Oceans Institute by Patrick Gorman MP and Senator Sue Lines, alongside project leads Dr. Matt Navarro and Dr. Tim Langlois, and Traditional Owner project partners. This initiative is part of the Australian Government’s ‘Our Marine Parks’ Round 4 program, which has allocated over $2 million for eight projects across Western Australia. These projects aim to enhance the understanding and management of marine parks through partnerships with Traditional Owners and other stakeholders.

The Australian Government has established 60 Australian Marine Parks, covering 3.8 million square kilometres, or 43 per cent of Australian waters, all managed by Parks Australia.

Commitment to Collaborative Environmental Stewardship

Dr. Navarro emphasized UWA’s commitment to collaborative, culturally informed environmental stewardship, stating, “UWA’s involvement in two of the eight funded projects underscores the University’s commitment to collaborative, culturally informed environmental stewardship. These partnerships not only highlight the importance of integrating traditional knowledge with Western scientific research but also set a precedent for future collaborative efforts in marine conservation.”

The awarded projects represent a significant stride towards inclusive and effective marine conservation, ensuring that Traditional Owner knowledge and leadership are central to the management of Australia’s marine environments.

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