Indigenous peoples in America and Australia harvested huge amounts of oysters without harming ecosystems

(ORDO NEWS) — Indigenous peoples in North America and Australia harvested oysters sustainably for thousands of years before colonists moved to coastal areas, according to a new study.

Scientists propose using an indigenous approach in planning modern oyster harvesting

In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications , scientists have concluded that indigenous communities along the North American coast and in Australia have successfully fished for local oysters for several thousand years without depleting shellfish populations or seriously damaging surrounding ecosystems.

According to the researchers, the indigenous approach to oyster harvesting could help design future oyster farming and harvesting systems.

How did the scientists find out?

The researchers took two approaches: First, they analyzed a major 2004 paper that looked at the history of the oyster fishery in eastern and western North America and parts of Australia after colonists moved to the coastal regions of those continents.

Second, they analyzed the piles of oyster “mounds” left behind by local communities. For example, one such pile on Fig Island in South Carolina contains about 75 million oyster shells, and a site on St. Helena in Australia contains about 50 million oyster shells. These oysters were harvested before the arrival of the colonists.

Comparing historical written data with the results of excavations, scientists came to the conclusion that the indigenous tribes were extremely careful about oysters and took into account the sustainability and viability of future oysters for spawning when caught.

The problems began with the arrival of colonists who fished them for commercial purposes, disrupting the entire ecosystem.

The researchers believe that the indigenous peoples’ approach should be part of the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and animal populations.


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