Lessons in sustainable food from Unesco-recognised aboriginal traditions

From 22 August, fancy restaurateurs in London and beyond will be able to find wares sold by a street food stall-turned-brand, Rymilatu. A modern nod to the aboriginal culinary traditions of Tasmania, Rymilatu is owned by 13 chefs from three nations who take turns operating a kitchen on the island. The project’s goal is to provide a network of jobs, skills and connections to unoccupied land that will benefit their future generation, and with a future intention to become sustainable.

As an example of what can be achieved, consider Fiona Jones, who in 2008 established Makana oyster-processing and distribution company Makana Woollens. According to his company website, Fletcher listened to Jones’ opinion on how to conserve local habitat. Jones wanted to install a facility that would reintroduce native and wild population of oysters within the shipwrecked island of Eyre Peninsula. He said it’s crucial for local economies that oysters flourish.

Fletcher was able to finance the venture by using loans from a forestry fund. A marine law, originally conceived to benefit native and wild stock, effectively allowed him to convert loggers’ logs into food.

So far, Fletcher’s fisheries project has achieved 98% of his ultimate goal of reintroducing the native population of oysters. He’s able to harvest 47,000 juvenile oysters a season. The process is effortless and efficient. The companies his company works with grow the seafood, which is then shipped to Port Lincoln in South Australia for grading.

Outside of aquaculture, the same process is used to improve the resilience of native populations in the world’s oceans. For example, Fletcher produces Taygetax oil, an oilseed used to demonstrate how oysters can have a viable economic and ecologically regenerative future. He says in order to sustain native oysters, the food industry needs to move away from the usual practices of removing their populations from the water. The oil derived from oysters can be used in a large variety of animal agriculture and cooking blends and is another way in which natives can be sustainably reintegrated into the food chain.

Protecting native environments is as integral to the culinary traditions of nations like Australia, New Zealand and Canada as it is to their multicultural heritage. These chefs are following in the footsteps of the indigenous and traditional, which is a deliberate step towards maintaining food practices in the hopes that their young generation and future generations will find alternative local and national economies and sources.

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