Australian Marine Parks

Tuesday 28 September 2021

The traditional owners and sea rangers of the Thamarrurr region of Australia’s Northern Territory are key partners in a collaborative project to monitor the health of sea country in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park.

The marine biodiversity survey project, which began in 2020, is a partnership between the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Eni, Parks Australia and the Thamarrurr Rangers – the local Indigenous sea ranger group. It gives the Thamarrurr Rangers the opportunity to receive training in techniques to monitor their marine environment and uses a blend of western science and traditional ecological knowledge.

Rangers learnt how to use and deploy scientific equipment. From left to right: Vinay Udyawer, Malcom Martin, Dominic Bunduck and Uriah Crocombe. Credit: AIMS
Rangers learnt how to use and deploy scientific equipment. From left to right: Vinay Udyawer, Malcom Martin, Dominic Bunduck and Uriah Crocombe. Credit: AIMS

The Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park is an environment rich in marine life and holds spiritual and cultural value for traditional owners. The marine environment in this area has supported Indigenous peoples to sustain their unique way of life for thousands of years.

The first round of the marine biodiversity survey project focuses on the ecologically significant Emu Reef. Located in the north of Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park, Emu Reef resides within commonwealth waters and is situated a bit over three nautical miles offshore.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science provided the Thamarrurr Rangers with training both on and off the water – with the sea rangers being able to access the remote northern region of the marine park on their new vessel, Yidiwurri, for on water training.

While on the water, the rangers deployed Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS) and drop cameras from Yidiwurri. Once on the seafloor, the cameras and video equipment captured lots of images of marine species.

The rangers were delighted to see a rich diversity of fish, sharks and crabs in the video footage they captured, including the beautiful, protected, and culturally significant eyebrow wedgefish.

Eyebrow wedgefish. Credit: AIMS
Eyebrow wedgefish. Credit: AIMS

The information collected by the Thamarrurr Rangers will build on existing data about the natural and cultural values of the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park.

It is hoped that monitoring will be continued into the future as part of a long-term program to help track changes and identify threats to Thamarrurr sea country in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park.

Parks Australia looks forward to working with the Thamarrurr Rangers in the future and acknowledges their work in looking after the sea country in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf Marine Park.