World fisheries day was held at Twin Waters west on 21 November 2016 on the Maroochy estuary just east of the Sunshine Motorway bridge, saw 20 or more people attend a workshop sharing the local values of saltwater natural heritage and cultural heritage. Local Kabi Kabi traditional owner Kerry Jones and family walked with people through eastern grey kangaroo habitat towards the Maroochy estuary, while sharing the significance of threatened saltwater wetlands, including salt-marsh and mangroves. Twin Waters west joins the Maroochy River conservation park and 'declared fish habitat area', being much loved by the local and wider community.
Aboriginal people have been permanently settled on the Maroochy River for the last 10,000 years. Aboriginal marine economies and governance practices have set the ultimate benchmark or baseline for sustainable fisheries and shellfish (oysteries) management. Kerry shared insights into the extensive traditional knowledge held by Kabi Kabi people. For example, the riverbed and shellfish reefs of the Maroochy estuary and the mangrove wetlands (previously much more extensive than now) were prolific producers of giant-sized oysters. Aboriginal shell(fish) middens covered many acres of riverbank and floodplains, purposely built as iconic landscape markers for traditional river navigation.
The fast pace of modern life makes it easy to forget how bountiful and productive our local fisheries were in past decades and centuries (marine scientists refer to this phenomenon as ‘shifting baseline syndrome’). The beauty of having traditional owners out amongst the community is that they continue to retain historical information, and through the lens of traditional practices and knowledge, can pinpoint changes in the health and productivity of the Maroochy River over long stretches of time; something which is often overlooked in environmental assessments and state of health report cards.
The vulnerable and nocturnal water mouse and its magnificent nest building and tunnelling capabilities within the tidal zones, were described in detail by local researcher Janine Kaluza. This species could be viewed as a key indicator for the condition of saltwater wetlands, and like the biodiversity of fish and crabs, is much dependent on healthy saltmarsh and mangrove nurseries habitat. Past and current threats to local saltwater fisheries and mangrove communities include urban development, modifications to the floodplains, changes to freshwater runoff, habitat fragmentation through poor land-use planning, invasive weeds, foxes, climate change and rising sea levels.
Everyday needs to be world fisheries day; follow up activities to this event includes more community education tours, rubbish clean-ups, mangrove and saltmarsh revegetation, wildlife monitoring and cultural heritage recording.
Written by Kerry Jones, Sean Fleischfresser, Rodney Jones, Loretta Algar, Helen Jones and Genevieve Jones.