Issue 4 - 7 May 2013 enews home

Bush tucker remains a healthy harvest

By Leanne Coleman

Larrakia trainee Keith Sailor works with CDU staff in the laboratory to test for elevated bacteria and metal levels

A research project has shown that shellfish species in Darwin Harbour, which are considered good bush tucker, are indeed “good eating”.

The Healthy Marine Harvest is an ongoing collaborative project between Charles Darwin University’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Larrakia traditional owners, and funded through Territory Natural Resource Management.

During the past year, the team worked to collect and check the health of shellfish at popular traditional gathering sites after concern by traditional owners regarding the safety of eating shellfish from particular waters in the harbour, mainly near sewage outfalls.

CDU microbiologist Dr Anna Padovan said the project had found that shellfish and marine invertebrates collected at the Darwin Harbour sites did not have elevated metal or bacterial levels.

“We analysed metal trace levels and microbial populations in shellfish and other marine invertebrates collected near sewage outfalls and industrial areas compared to samples collected from reference locations,” Dr Padovan said.

“Aquatic animals have natural levels of many trace elements in their body to function, but eating shellfish with elevated metal or bacterial levels could have significant implications for the health of the people using these animals as a food source.

“We found no elevated levels according to the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards so there is no cause for concern about the quality of bush tucker in the harbour.”

Dr Padovan said that the collaborative project had many spin-offs including Larrakia trainees working alongside CDU staff in the laboratory to learn new skills.

“The two-way learning has been fantastic,” she said. “I would never have been able to collect and identify the samples without the team of Larrakia people. In the lab, the trainees have been part of the process and understand how the results are being generated.”

The traditional owners involved in the project have relayed the results to the various groups who collect shellfish.

The $77 000 project was funded through Territory Natural resource Management.