Effective management and protection of the unique cultural and natural values in Torres Strait requires a combination of local Indigenous knowledge and other scientific knowledge and approaches working together to support evidence-based decision making and regulatory approaches.
The quality and quantity of scientific knowledge about the region has grown over recent decades. Accurate baseline data and targeted monitoring of indicators is vital to assess the health of key values and to inform future management and planning, as well as adaptive responses to emerging threats. There are still large gaps in science knowledge and data in relation to trends in dugong abundance and movements, turtle abundance and movements, whales and dolphins, sharks and rays, non- commercial pelagic fish, littoral zone species, marine molluscs, crocodiles, invertebrates, mangrove crabs, fungi, general island ecology (e.g., small mammals, microbats, reptiles, distribution of rare plants, distribution of weeds – particularly on most uninhabited islands), and ground water.
Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities and Traditional Owners want scientific research to align with cultural protocols, to respect and integrate local Indigenous knowledge, and to address local land and sea management priorities. Research should align with the priorities in the Land and Sea Management Strategy for Torres Strait 2016-2036 and the knowledge gaps identified in this report card.
The future sustainability of the region’s rich biodiversity is dependent on strong collaboration between researchers, management agencies and Traditional Owners and communities to ensure that scientific research complements planning and management efforts at a local community and regional scale
Research across the region should deliver mutual benefits for Traditional Owners, island communities, research institutions and investors, land and sea managers, and build the capacity, skills, and knowledge of local communities.