The Traditional Owners of Northern Australia have managed the region's lands and seas for tens of thousands of years. Connection to their country, resources and traditions remains strong. For coastal or 'saltwater' Aboriginal people the land and seas are considered one - people's connection to country does not stop at the water's edge. All aspects of social, cultural, traditional, spiritual and economic life are directly related to their land and sea country.
In 2008 the Blue Mud Bay decision by the High Court ruled that Aboriginal land held under the NT Land Rights Act extends to the low water mark. This means that around 80% or more of the Territory's coastline is owned by Aboriginal people who exercise ownership rights to the land including controlling access permission for fishers down to the low tide mark.
Aboriginal ranger groups manage land and seas under the guidance of the broader Traditional Owner groups, combining traditional and local Indigenous knowledge with conventional science. Groups like Dhimurru through their land and sea Indigenous Protected Area maintain a well managed system of permits and recreational beach maintenance on their traditional country to ensure non-aboriginal people can enter, camp and fish in a sustainable manner as well as conducting and supporting other research and management of the sea.
A recent example of cultural management of the sea delivering environmental protection was that of the Groote Eylandt Traditional Owners helping secure a Territory wide moratorium on seabed mining to as part of their campaign to protect local saltwater sacred sites and traditional songlines on the seabed.
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