NT anglers will still have access to Aboriginal-owned NT coastal waters until at least the end of 2022.
A new agreement has been signed between the NT Government and the Northern Land Council to allow the current conditions to continue.
Under the Blue Mud Bay native title decision made in the High Court a decade ago, traditional owners were granted exclusive access rights to waters which lie on their land - also known as intertidal zones.
The NT Government has been negotiating with Indigenous groups ever since to retain access for anglers, a big economic driver for the NT.
By law, Indigenous owners have rights, interests and responsibilities along more than 6000 kilometres, or 85 per cent, of the Territory coastline.
Groups like the Northern Land Council have said they do not want to exclude people but want to keep autonomy over those areas.
Suggestions have been made over the years that fishos should pay through annual permits to access the areas.
Under this latest deal, made on the eve of the NT election, the NT Government and the NLC have agreed agreed to a series of actions to lock in long-term permanent fishing access and create new industry and jobs for Aboriginal Territorians.
The Government will hand over $10 million to help establish an Aboriginal "fishing entity" to facilitate participation of Traditional Owners in fishing, aquaculture and other opportunities associated with fishing activities in the Northern Territory
Under the agreed Action Plan, the Northern Territory Government will:
- Provide funding to establish an Aboriginal fishing entity that will enable Traditional Owners to benefit from economic opportunities in the fishing and aquaculture industries;
- Provide seed funding to assist this entity to support participation of Traditional Owners in fishing and aquaculture opportunities, job growth and associated enterprise development;
- Work collaboratively with the parties to the Nitmiluk Heads of Agreement, Traditional Owners and other key stakeholders in the drafting and introduction of a Fisheries Act Amendment Bill;
- Expand Aboriginal Coastal Licences to increase commercial catch across all managed fisheries, including enabling greater incubation of small-scale commercial fishing in communities, potentially supported by the new Aboriginal fishing entity; and
- Maintain commitments to Aboriginal Capacity Building Programs, such as ranger fisheries compliance training, fisheries inspector appointments, and the training and mentoring associated with Aboriginal Coastal Licences.
The NLC will:
- Consult Traditional Owners on extending the permit free interim arrangements for fishing access in Blue Mud Bay tidal waters to 31 December 2022; and
- Subject to there being satisfactory progress under the Action Plan, consult Traditional Owners on long term permanent access arrangements post 31 December 2022.
Northern Land Council CEO Marion Scrymgour said: This Action Plan was made between the NLC and the NT government with the full support of the Tiwi and Anindilyakwa Land Councils - both 'sea country' Land Councils - and the Central Land Council.
"This is the first time that a strong alliance of NT Land Councils have come together to help protect nearly 8500 kilometres of NT sea country.
"The Action Plan will, again for the first time, provide sea country traditional owners with a clear pathway to achieving culturally appropriate economic and employment outcomes that will benefit our mob for generations to come."
NLC chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said: "Following the election we look forward to working closely with the NT government to develop and deliver a new Fisheries Act that will reflect the undeniable fact of Aboriginal ownership of sea country and the need to implement sustainable and appropriate policies for the future management of our fisheries and protection of this most precious resource."
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