The economic value of the harvesting of wild resources to the Indigenous community of the Wallis Lake catchment

The economic value of the harvesting of wild resources to the Indigenous community of the Wallis Lake catchment

Media Release — 1 March 2007

Fishing for household consumption remains an important economic activity for Indigenous people in more settled parts of Australia. New research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, published in Family Matters no.75, describes the variety of wild resources used by the Indigenous families of the Wallis Lake catchment in coastal New South Wales, and estimates the economic benefits derived from the use of wild resources.

Indigenous people in the Wallis Lake catchment harvest a wide range of wild resources. While a number of plant and wildlife species are harvested, the majority of the wild resources harvested are aquatic.

The value of wild resources harvested by Indigenous people in the Wallis Lake catchment is estimated to be between $468 and $1,200 per adult per annum. The value for the community as a whole ranges from $232,420 to $645,611 for the lower and upper bound estimates, respectively. Expressed as a proportion of the gross income of the Indigenous population, the value of the wild resources harvested is between 3% and 8%. While the value of wild resources harvested appears to be only a relatively small proportion of total income, it is a significant contribution to the dietary intake of a relatively poor community.

For those households with a very active and successful harvester, the value of wild resources consumed constitutes a far higher proportion of household income than is the case when total estimated return is averaged across the entire community. Virtually all of the resources are used for personal consumption (including own household) or distributed to family outside of the harvester's own household. The proportion of their income that households spend on food provides a useful reference point.

Information was gathered through interviews with members of the community. Those interviewed did not see their harvesting of wild resources as a recreational activity but rather as a customary activity, an aspect of Indigenous culture and as a means of obtaining food. Fishing is a significant contribution to families wellbeing, with the catch being shared among extended families.

This is very different from the reasons for fishing reported by the Australian population as a whole for whom a 2003 survey showed obtaining food ranked below relaxation, sport, being with friends and being outdoors as the primary reason for non-commercial fishing.

Most surveys to date have concentrated on remote and very remote communities. The methodology developed for this study is more broadly applicable and variants of it can be used to estimate the economic benefits derived from the use of wild resources in other areas.

Gray, M. and Altman, J. (2006). The economic value of harvesting wild resources to the Indigenous community of the Wallis Lake Catchment, NSW. Family Matters 75, 4-9.

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