Australia

Historic NT fishing rights deal struck

Indigenous people and fishing groups have struck an historic deal to implement the High Court's Blue Mud Bay native title ruling over access to NT waters.

A deal struck between Northern Territory Aboriginal groups and the fishing industry is being hailed as a big step forward in the divisive negotiations.

The parties have reached a deal over access to NT waters that implements the High Court's landmark 2008 native title ruling on Blue Mud Bay.

The ruling was one of the most significant for native title since Mabo in 1992, granting indigenous people ownership and fishing rights to tidal waters overlying their land.

Negotiations over that have dragged on for 11 years since, with the Blue Mud Bay ruling having the potential to affect recreational and fishing rights for more than 80 per cent, or 6000km, of the NT's coastline.

The idea of restricting where people can fish is hugely controversial given it is a key part of the lifestyle of Territorians.

The Northern Land Council's announcement of the agreement near Katherine on Wednesday was a relief for many anglers.

It revealed that permits would not be required for the greater Darwin region, including the area from the Daly River to the East Alligator, where most recreational fishing occurs.

The Roper River region around Katherine would also be prioritised for long-term recreational fishing, the council's statement said.

No fishers would be subject to permits for any other areas for at least the next 18 months while all terms of the agreement are hoped to be implemented.

Other priorities include a review of NT fisheries management and legislation - which currently controls fishing access - and progressing towards voluntary buybacks of some commercial fishing licences to then go to traditional owners.

The NLC wanted the process to help Aboriginal communities create businesses and jobs around commercial, sport and tourism fishing, chief executive Marion Scrymgour said.

Aboriginal communities could operate as sea rangers, for example, and own fishing lodges and campgrounds.

"I believe this package will genuinely assist reconciliation," she said.

Amateur Fishermen's Association of the NT (AFANT) executive officer David Ciaravolo said it was an historic signing and the "biggest step forward" since Blue Mud Bay.

The agreement was drafted and reached with all stakeholders including the NLC, AFANT, the NT Government, Seafood Council and tourism operators, he said.

"It highlights a bright future for recreational fishing but it really provides some great basis and great opportunities for traditional owners to be involved in recreational fishing, fishing tourism and the commercial fishing industry," he told AAP.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch