• Native Title fishing rights granted by the High Court
The high court has ruled that a father and son Owen and Daniel Karpany, prosecuted for taking 24 undersized abalone from South Australia, were entitled to fishing rights on Native Title grounds.
Karen Ashford

7 Nov 2013 - 4:57 PM  UPDATED 7 Nov 2013 - 6:17 PM

Owen and Daniel Karpany were prosecuted in 2009 for taking 24 undersized abalone from Cape Elizabeth on the Yorke Peninsula.

The Magistrates Court found they were entitled to the catch, but the state government's appeal in the Supreme Court found their Native Title Rights to be extinguished under the State Fisheries Act.

However, the High Court confirmed yesterday that the men still have a customary right to collect shellfish to feed their families, and the ruling has been heralded as a victory for culture against commercial interests.

"It’s a victory not only for me but for everyone because it makes it more clear about our native title rights to be able to go out and practice our culture, without fear of being prosecuted for carrying out those cultural practices. See, the professional fishers, they take the legal size and the other abalone that are left is always going to be undersized. I go out to feed my family and then I'm being convicted. Now, we always had that right, my ancestors have been here for thousands of years and that was our inherent right that was given to us by our great creator god," Mr Owen Karpany said.

State Attorney General John Rau says he's seeking legal advice on the implications of the ruling, but doubts it's a precedent for people to flout fishing laws because it applies only to Native Title holders.