Restoring habitat and cultural practice in Australia’s oldest and largest traditional aquaculture system

D Rose, Damein Bell, David Crook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lake Condah (Tae Rak) in south-western Victoria, Australia, is one of the world's most ancient examples of traditional aquaculture, consisting of complex systems of traps and ponds used by Gunditjmara (Indigenous people) over millennia to collect short-finned eel (Anguilla australis) for consumption and trade. Artificial draining of the lake during the nineteenth century reduced surface water retention in the landscape and rendered most of the eel traps inoperable. In this paper, we describe the traditional eel fishery at Lake Condah and its historical and cultural significance to the Gunditjmara people. We document the impacts of European settlement on the traditional eel fishery, and describe the processes and events leading to eventual restoration of the lake and subsequent reactivation of major parts of the traditional aquaculture system. In addition to restoring an important ecological asset to the region, the restoration project provided significant benefits to the Gunditjmara people, including enhanced connection to country and culture, opportunities for economic development and employment, and increased capacity for traditional owners to progress and negotiate outcomes within regulatory and administrative frameworks. Aspects identified as critical to the ultimate success of the Lake Condah restoration project include: open and transparent lines of communication with stakeholders; building of trust and confidence with key individuals over sustained periods; use of strategic and business planning documents to guide activities; commissioning of high quality technical information to support and justify activities; representative leadership structures, and effective use of 'two-way learning' across western scientific and indigenous knowledge systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-600
Number of pages12
JournalReviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


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