Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) have used high-resolution close-range drone photogrammetry and a suite of spatial information analytical techniques to investigate Kaiadilt Aboriginal stone-walled intertidal fishtraps on Sweers Island in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.

Stone-walled intertidal fishtraps were built to control the movements of marine animals. They are the largest structures built by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and surround the Australian coastline, with dense complexes around the South Wellesley Islands and some Torres Strait Islands.

The fishtraps were designed to be most effective in enclosing water at mid-tide, which corresponds to the tradition of collecting fish from fishtraps at mid-tide among Kaiadilt Aboriginal people—the traditional owners of the South Wellesley Islands, and partners in the research.

Results will feed into plans to protect this extraordinary cultural heritage and help our understanding of how people used these island environments in the past. The next phase of the project involves mapping all of the fishtraps around Kaiadilt sea country in all of the islands in the South Wellesley Archipelago.

The new fascinating aerial images document trap walls hundreds of meters long and up to a metre high.


YouTube video: Using drones to study extensive Aboriginal stone-walled fishtraps in the Gulf of Carpentaria
Credit: CABAH - Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage


Image: New aerial image documenting trap walls hundreds of meters long in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Credit: Anna Kreij and Sean Ulm.