Nitmiluk was the unusual location of an historic signing which impacts popular fishing off the coast of the Northern Territory.
For the first time since the Blue Mud Bay Decision by the High Court of Australia in 2008, a vision to resolve Blue Mud Bay has been realised in a Heads of Agreement signed today at the 120th Full Council meeting of the Northern Land Council at Nitmiluk.
It is believed the current access agreements will continue for a further 12 months while the issue is being resolved.
The NLC recognises the five years of hard work by the NLC's Sea Country Working Group Working along with the NT Government, the Amateur Fishermen's Association of the NT, the NT Seafood Council, and the NT Guided Fishing Industry Association as key industry bodies.
Most importantly, this work was done with and on behalf of the first nations people that have rights, interests and responsibilities along the more than 6000 kilometres of Territory coastline.
It is timely that we celebrate this agreement on the eve of the 11th anniversary of the 2008 High Court decision in the case bought by the Blue Mud Bay traditional owners.
This is an historic day that shows that when first nations people are given the resources, support and recognition by government and industry we can reach agreement of very complex matters.
For all traditional owners this is an example of Makarrata at work and we hope that government and the people of the NT will embrace our willingness to reach agreement for the benefit of all Territorians.
Northern Land Council CEO, Marion Scrymgour said: "The NLC is delighted that this matter is finally being resolved. The settlement arrangements are exciting and offer great opportunities. I believe this package will genuinely assist reconciliation. More importantly, we recognize that this Heads of Agreement wouldn't have happened without the hard work and commitment from the traditional Aboriginal owners of sea country in the NT.
Northern Land Council Deputy Chairman, John Christophersen: "Settling Blue Mud Bay has been a complex process, reflecting the time it has taken us to arrive at this point. Finally we can all move forward together, developing world's best fisheries management approaches for the NT, and where management is driven by good science rather than politics for the benefit of all Territorians."
The Chairman of the Sea Country Working Group, Keith Rory: "I'm really looking forward to seeing what settlement brings. It's one of the best development opportunities we've ever seen for people in the bush, and for Territorians as a whole."
CEO of the NT Seafood Council, Katherine Winchester: "We are very happy to move forward with the Northern Land Council in the spirit of cooperation through a Heads of Agreement with all parties."
AFANT President, Warren de With: "Today is the culmination of years of hard work and cooperation, its paves the way for certainty and for a bright future for recreational fishing in the Territory."
David Ciaravolo, Executive Officer, Amateur Fishermen's Association of the NT: "We are pleased that this agreement is a solid foundation on which to build a future that will benefit recreational fishers and traditional owners."
The Guided Fishing Industry Association NT, Co-chair Dennis Sten: "The Guided Fishing Association's NT Committee welcomes the Blue Mud Bay Heads of Agreement. It offers opportunities in working together with all parties to develop unique, world-class recreational sports fishing and fishing tourism opportunities on Aboriginal lands with all parties, reaffirming the Northern Territory as an Australian and international fishing and tourism drawcard."
The Heads of Agreement:
- Permits will not be required for recreational fishing in the greater Darwin region, including the area from the Daly River to the East Alligator, where most rec fishing occurs.
- The Roper River region will be prioritised for long-term recreational fishing access.
- The NLC will facilitate discussions between TOs and NTG, if TOs wish to negotiate long-term access agreements for other areas.
- There won't be recreational fishing licencing or boat registration.
- Codes of Conduct will be developed for fishers using ALRA waters and this will include a system for vessel identification.
- Exciting opportunities exist to help Indignenous communities and Territorians more generally to create businesses and jobs around sport fishing, fishing tourism and commercial fishing.
- Exciting opportunities for TOs to own fishing lodges and campgrounds.
- TOs will become actively involved in the commercial industry.
- NTG, NLC and industry keen to help TOs develop aquaculture (e.g. oysters) where there's interest to do so.
- There will be a comprehensive review of NT fisheries management, legislation and policy in light of BMB. All parties will be involved in this review.
- A regional approach to fisheries management will be developed, giving TOs real input to management of their waters.
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