Farming sponges – Palm Island, Queensland, Australia

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) congratulates the Manbarra Traditional Owners of Palm Island and Coolgaree CDEP on achieving an important milestone towards establishing Australia’s first commercial sea sponge farm, with an agreement for the development of Coolgaree Bay Sponge Farm ILUA, Palm Island, Queensland.

The Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA), signed on 26 July 2005 by the Manbarra people and the Coolgaree Aboriginal Corporation for CDEP (Coolgaree CDEP), is the first step towards the development of an Indigenous owned and operated sea sponge farm at Palm Island. Under the ILUA the traditional owners of the area, the Manbarra people, are agreeing to the development of the project. Before the project can proceed a number of other applications for approval will have to be sought. The agreement with the Manbarra people is the initial step, paving the way for the many approvals/agreements the project proponents, Coolgaree CDEP, must acquire before embarking on the project.

The areas that will be used for sponge farming if the agreement goes ahead are located around the Palm Islands, which are about 56 km north north-west of Townsville in north Queensland. The agreement area covers 21 small sea areas as well as 0.3 hectares of land on Palm Island itself. Of the total agreement area, about 54 hectares will potentially be used for sponge farming.

AIMS has pioneered sponge farming science and technology that underpins this new coastal enterprise.

ILUAs are voluntary, legally binding agreements dealing with native title rights and interests as they relate to the use and management of land. ILUAs are made between Indigenous groups and others with interests in a particular area. ILUAs are practical and flexible as they are developed to suit the different needs of the groups and the land use issues they’re working through.

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