Northern Territory seafood industry loses access to key fishing area

The Northern Territory Seafood Council said it expresses deep concern over the recent loss of access for professional fishers in the Mini Mini/Murgenella region due to failed negotiations.

“Discussions between the Northern Territory Government and Traditional Owners in the Mini Mini/Murgenella region have failed to reach a successful result to minimise short-term impacts on businesses whilst longer-term discussions progress,” said Northern Territory Seafood Council Chief Executive Officer, Ms Katherine Winchester.

“The region is crucial to the iconic Barramundi and Mud Crab fisheries, and the closure will cause significant disruption to the seafood industry. The NT seafood industry is transitioning to a new system of Section 19 permits, but key commercial fishing areas in the Mini Mini/Murgenella region were not covered for interim arrangements.

Ms Winchester said the entire NLC Zone 4 area (Mini Mini/Murgenella and East Alligator) has now been confirmed to remain closed, affecting businesses in both the Barramundi and Mud Crab fisheries.

“The news has come as a shock for operators who were reliant on a short-term solution to ensure their fishing operations this year. Professional fishers who have operated in the area for over two decades were last year given two months’ notice the area would close on January 1, 2023. All hopes were on an interim solution for the 2023 fishing season that has not come through.

Ms Winchester added that the Mini Mini/Murgenella region is critical to commercial fishing for Barramundi, King Threadfin and Mud Crabs. After 14 years of negotiations with a common goal to not impact business continuity, the operators are “in shock” that a key area they have fished and consistently operated in is now closed.

“The Seafood Council seeks to get a clearer picture of what went wrong and how best to ensure the security of access for the remaining areas of coastline adjacent to Aboriginal land. It provides cold comfort to the business operations entirely reliant on this area that their experience may assist others.”

The NTSC urges the Northern Territory Government to take immediate action to support affected businesses and to work collaboratively with all parties to ensure an improved approach with Traditional Owners for long-term access agreements.


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