Tough new regs proposed for NT

THE Northern Territory, long seen as the last bastion of “fishing freedom”, is on the brink of introducing tough regulations involving reef closures and much tighter bag and size limits in order to preserve stocks of popular sportfish.

The NT Fisheries Department is seeking public comment on a series of proposals outlined in a discussion paper – see HERE for further details.

The proposed changes stem from research which indicates that key species including golden snapper and black jewfish are suffering from growing recreational fishing pressure.

Five-year closures on a number of reef systems off Darwin have been proposed to allow stocks to rebuild. Similar closures are enforced in other states, including WA where a ban on taking demersal species such as snapper and dhufish has just been announced. It needs to be noted the WA closures are for periods of months, not years.

Fisho understands some anglers and charter businesses are concerned about the possible ramifications of closures. We also understand the science regarding the plight of golden snapper and jewies is pretty clear cut – Darwin’s rapid population increases, the huge popularity of rec fishing in the NT, the growth of fishing tourism and the development of bigger, faster and more seaworthy boats has combined to put these schooling reef fish under considerable pressure.

The Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the NT (AFANT) is the organisation charged with representing anglers in the Top End. Fisho has requested info on the Fisheries Department changes from AFANT CEO Craig Ingram so that anglers in other states and territories can get insight on what is being proposed, whether it’s supported by the NT’s fishing fraternity and what may happen.

The NT has led the way for decades on proactive fisheries management – for example, decisions to ban commercial netting in order to develop a world-class recreational barra fishery have paid off in spades in regards to tourism potential and quality fishing for locals. Given that, you’d like to think NT fisheries bureaucrats, scientists and angling leaders will be able to come up with workable solutions for developing sustainable offshore reef fishing.

It’s interesting to note that the NT hasn’t gone down the path of adopting heavy handed marine park lock-outs but rather is proposing more targeted short-term (five year) closures and management changes.

The key point here will be to see if NT fishos – who are well known for their strong stance on “fishing rights” – accept and support the proposed restrictions and closures. It seems clear from the data Fisho has seen that there are problems with stocks of some popular reef species. Will the Territorians move to limit their impact on these fish with the aim of allowing stocks to regenerate or will they fight to allow the status quo to continue?

Hopefully Craig Ingram from AFANT will be able to provide a clearer picture on what’s going up in the Top End. Stay tuned next week for more.

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