Indigenous people sustainably harvested oysters for thousands of years before European colonisation, study finds

Oyster harvesting is in Lorraine Woolley’s blood.

The Butchulla lady’s nice grandfather and grandfather harvested oysters within the waters around Urungan and Burrum Heads in south-east Queensland.

“My grandfather would go down and eat the oysters off the rocks whereas us children performed,” she remembers.

Warning: Indigenous people are suggested there are photos of middens on this story.

Black and white photo of Indigenous midden
A historic picture of a midden at Burrum Heads taken by Lorraine Woolley’s grandfather.(Supplied: Lorraine Woolley)

Lorraine’s people harvested oysters effectively before her nice grandfather arrived from Ireland within the 1870s.

There are many mounds of shells dotted throughout her nation, says Ms Woolley, who’s the chairperson for the Butchulla Native Title Aboriginal Corporation in Hervey Bay.

But there are not any unique oyster beds within the space.

Ms Woolley says the oysters disappeared as a result of of illness and over-exploitation by European settlers, who took the oysters additional south to Moreton Bay within the late 1800s.

“My nice grandfather wrote a letter and requested them to cease doing it as a result of he mentioned they had been robbing the banks,” she mentioned.

“[Oyster beds] are like vegetable gardens. You’ve acquired to replant a vegetable backyard, they usually simply stored taking them out.”

Post-colonial oyster mattress collapse not only a native occasion

The collapse of oyster beds is a story acquainted to Indigenous people in lots of coastal areas of Australia, in addition to the US.

A brand new study, printed immediately within the journal Nature Communications, appears on the scale of oyster harvesting before the arrival of Europeans in each nations to see what the trendy trade may be taught from Indigenous practices.

“There’s quite a bit of discuss about the collapse of oyster fisheries because of overfishing and all kinds of different issues throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, however [previous studies] do not go additional than that,” mentioned the study’s lead writer Lesley Reeder-Myers, an anthropologist at Temple University.

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