The Northern Land Council’s 120th Full Council meeting enabled the signing of a historic Heads of Agreement to resolve ongoing issues with the Blue Mud Bay High Court decision.

In 2008, the High Court of Australia ruled that Traditional Owners held exclusive rights to issue fishing licences to those wishing to fish in waters on Aboriginal land such as Blue Mud Bay.

This included the intertidal zones of rivers and oceans and affected up to 80% of NT coastline.

For the past five years, the Northern Land Council’s Sea Country Working Group (SCWG), the NT Government, the Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the NT (AFANT), the NT Seafood Council, and the NT Guided Fishing Industry Association (NTGFIA) have been working together to come to an agreement concerning the decision.

The Heads of Agreement, signed at Nitmiluk near Katherine, guarantees Traditional Owners receive real benefits from the 2008 High Court decision while appeasing NT’s commercial and amateur fishers.

Major points of the agreement include:

  • No permit requirement for recreational fishing in the greater Darwin region (including where most recreational fishing happens from Daly River to East Alligator)
  • Roper River region prioritised for discussions with Traditional Owners about long-term recreational fishing access
  • No recreational fishing licensing or boat registration
  • Traditional Owners becoming actively involved in the commercial industry
  • A review by all parties to the agreement of NT fisheries management, legislation and policy.

The Northern Land Council said in a statement that the work was carried out in collaboration with Indigenous Australians who have rights, responsibilities and interests over 6,000 kilometres of the Territory’s coastline.

The Council also said this is “an example of Makarrata at work” for all Traditional Owners across the country.