The Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation is about to finalise the IPA Plan of Management and organise the declaration of the Thuwathu/Bujimulla IPA over 16,000 square kilometres of sea country and over 120,000 hectares of land.
Once all the necessary requirements have been met the declaration will be held on Mornington Island and will be attended by dignitaries from as far away as Canberra. Dignitaries will include the Minister for the Environment, the Honourable Tony Burke MP.
What’s an Indigenous Protected Area?
An Indigenous Protected Area, known as IPA, is a voluntary declaration by Traditional Owners to manage country in an environmentally sustainable and culturally appropriate manner.
Managing sea country
It is usually only possible to declare an IPA over an area of country held by Traditional Owners at the exclusion of others. This is what makes the Wellesley Islands IPA project so different – it’s over sea country, where the rights of the everyday individual to navigate the seas, and the rights of fishermen, both commercial and recreational coexist with the rights of Traditional Owners.
The first sea country IPA in Australia
The Wellesley Islands, a group of islands off the coast of north Queensland in the Gulf of Carpentaria, an IPA consultation project has been ongoing for over five years. At the first language group meetings held on Mornington Island many Traditional Owners liked the concept of an IPA so much they immediately wanted to declare their sea country as an IPA.
Of course it was not going to be that easy being the first sea country IPA in Australia, and the first IPA that had to consider the right of these others to access the area under common law.
About Wellesley Islands
The Wellesley Islands is a unique region with a wealth of wildlife species and prolific cultural heritage sites. For example, there are dozens of bird species listed under various international migratory bird agreements, including rare and endangered species; various marine mammals and marine reptiles listed as vulnerable, rare or endangered that inhabit the waters of the region, three of which are listed on the Bonn Convention; major nesting populations of flatback and green turtles, some of the largest in Australia; and nationally significant wetlands. There is over 160 sites of cultural heritage significance and the region contains the largest collection of stone fish traps in the southern hemisphere.
Ensuring benefits extend to all
During the life of the project Traditional Owners have been working with commercial fishing sectors, including the Gulf of Carpentaria Commercial Fishermen’s Association, to develop processes that are mutually beneficial and environmentally sustainable. This includes the conduct of a cultural heritage induction for fishermen operating in the area.
- Wellesley Islands Land and Sea Claims
- Indigenous Protected Area investigation for the Wellesley Islands and Gangalidda Country
Image: Green turtles conducting intertidal basking in the shallows off Pisonia Island, near the Wellesley Islands.