Twenty islands and their surrounding waters off Australia’s north coast have been listed as a protected area.
The Crocodile Islands archipelago was added to the government’s network of Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) on Monday.
It means that local Indigenous groups will receive ongoing funding from the government to deliver management plans for threatened species, marine debris, weeds, feral animals and wildfires.
Lying off the coast of the Northern Territory (NT) more than 400 km east of Darwin, the capital city of NT, the islands are home to 28 threatened species and more than 40 migratory species including whales, dolphins, turtles and thousands of shorebirds.
The designation takes the total size of the IPA network past 50,000 square km and the total landmass of Australia that is protected by the federal government to 22 percent.
The government has committed to protecting 30 percent of Australia’s landmass and waters by 2030.
“First Nations peoples have been successfully looking after land for 65,000 years,” Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said in a statement.
Leonard Bowaynu, a traditional owner of the islands and co-founder of the Crocodile Islands Rangers, said the listing would maintain the Maringa people’s connection with the islands.
“I wanted to see young ones on the islands, to live out on country, to learn from the elders,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
“I kept thinking of my dream about how to keep our sacred sites protected. If you are a traditional owner, you have to keep the land and sea strong and healthy.”