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Northern Land Council welcomes fines to fishers caught without permits by rangers

Jarred Cross -

The Northern Land Council have backed court decisions affirming Traditional Owner rights to Aboriginal waters after four people were fined for fishing without permission in restricted areas.

In November and December, four recreational fishers pleaded guilty to entering or remaining on Aboriginal land without a permit after multiple boats were intercepted south of Darwin in the Little Finniss River and past the Finniss River closure line during a patrol by Bulgul and assisting Kakadu Rangers.

On Thursday, the NLC said they welcomed what were the first prosecutions since the introduction of permit requirements to fish in stretches of Aboriginal waters in January 2023.

In arrangements under the Northern Territory's Aboriginal Land Rights Act, NLC-administered permits are needed to fish along much of the coastline and coastal waterways across the top of the territory, with risk of financial penalties.

Open access is maintained under long term agreements around Darwin and in others areas, in line with NT regulations requiring no recreational fishing or boating licences.

Areas of the Finniss coastline and nearby Peron Islands region are restricted.

NLC said the joint-patrols by ranger groups resulting in fines "are a clear reminder" to respect the permit systems in place. (Image: courtesy of NLC)

The Land Council said the court outcomes gave Traditional Owners confidence in regulations being upheld and consequences for people who enter Aboriginal waters without permission.

"It was great to see the Bulgul Rangers work together with Kakadu National Park rangers, and for the combined effort to have led to four landmark prosecutions," NLC chair Matthew Ryan said.

"These court rulings are a clear reminder that permission, in the form of permits, must be obtained to fish Aboriginal waters.

"This process is simple – check if a permit is required. If it is, apply for one, and then enjoy your fishing.

"The NLC will continue to respond to reports of illegal fishing and those caught will have to face the courts."

The Northern Land Council said a new compliance team within NT Fisheries will strengthen the support to Aboriginal ranger groups and ongoing patrols.

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