Blue Mud Bay Agreement to support economic development for traditional sea owners

Recreational fishing access to Aboriginal-owned NT coastal waters will continue until at least the end of 2022, under a new agreement signed between the Northern Territory Government (NTG) and the Northern Land Council (NLC). The NLC will continue consultation with Traditional Owners about this positive new agreement.

The Blue Mud Bay Implementation Action Plan commits the NT Government and the NLC to a series of actions to lock in long-term permanent fishing access and create new industry and jobs for Aboriginal Territorians.

As part of the Action Plan the NTG is providing up to $10 million to support the establishment of 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.

In June 2019, the NLC and NTG co-signed the Nitmiluk Heads of Agreement with the NT Seafood Council, the Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the NT and the NT Guided Fishing Industry Association.

The agreement facilitated the continuation of recreational fishing access to Aboriginal-owned coastal waters for 18 months, while negotiations continued to reach a resolution on Blue Mud Bay.

The Blue Mud Bay Implementation Action Plan expires at the end of 2022.

In this timeframe, NTG and NLC have committed to ongoing collaboration with the other parties to the Nitmiluk Heads of Agreement with a view to reaching a long term agreement.

Source: NT Government