- 1. Why do I need a Recreational Fishing Permit for the intertidal zone?
The boundaries of some Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory extend to the low water mark of adjoining waters, meaning parts of the intertidal zone around the Northern Territory constitute Aboriginal land and waters.
Aboriginal land and waters are private property. Like any other private property, permission from the owners is required for access. The NLC grants access to Aboriginal land based on Traditional Aboriginal Owners’ instructions using permits.
Permits provide Traditional Aboriginal Owners with basic information about people visiting their Country. Permits helps Traditional Aboriginal Owners know who is visiting their Country, when people are visiting, for how long and for what purpose.
- 2. What is ‘the intertidal zone’?
The intertidal zone is the area between the high tide and low tide water marks. In relation to Aboriginal sea rights stemming from the 2008 Blue Mud Bay High Court decision, the intertidal zone is the area between the mean high tide and the mean low-water marks.
- 3. What is Aboriginal land and Aboriginal waters?
Aboriginal land is land which is owned by an Aboriginal Land Trust on behalf of the Traditional Aboriginal Owners of the land. Aboriginal waters are waters which overlay Aboriginal land, for example, in the intertidal zone.
The NLC assists Traditional Aboriginal Owners manage their land and waters.
- 4. How did the NLC derive the ‘mean low-water’ mark on Aboriginal Land Trusts?
The NLC has based intertidal zone mapping on information from the Northern Territory Government survey plans for each Aboriginal Land Trust, the National Intertidal Digital Elevation Model (NIDEM) (https://www.ga.gov.au/dea/products/nidem) and NASA's mapping using Landsat (https://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/article/welcome-intertidal-zone-mapping-australias-coast-landsat)
The NLC has used the NIDEM model to plot the mean low-water mark (MLWM) but the model has some limitations and the NLC has used a conservative approach. It's expected that Aboriginal Land Trust boundaries will be revised by the NT Government in due course. The NLC will apply any new information once this revision has taken place.
- 5. Where do I need a Recreational Fishing Permit for?
All zones which are marked in Black, Blue and Purple on the Aboriginal Waters Access Map require a Recreational Fishing Permit. Zone 3 and parts of Zone 4 are restricted until further consultation with the Traditional Aboriginal Owners.
- 6. What is a ‘zone’?
‘Zones’ administratively divide different areas of Aboriginal land and waters in the intertidal zone. Zones are applicable to the recreational, tourism and commercial fishing sectors.
- 7. Will the zones change?
Zones may change in the future following further consultation with the Traditional Aboriginal Owners of the areas and depending on the future access parameters they set.
- 8. Why would a zone be closed, and how do I get access to a closed zone?
Traditional Aboriginal Owners may choose to close an area for cultural or other reasons. Fishers must respect these closures and not enter closed areas for any reason. Penalties will apply.
- 9. What happens if an area is closed in the middle of my fishing trip?
You will be notified of any closures by email or phone. If you are already on the water or out of range, you may be approached by local rangers or police who may ask you to vacate the area in accordance with Traditional Aboriginal Owners’ wishes.
- 10. What is the difference between the black, blue and purple zones?
Each of the three colours represents a separate zone. The separate colours have been used to visually distinguish between adjoining zones on the map. If you wish to access an area within one of these zones, you are required to apply for a permit(s).
- 11. What are the red zones?
Red zones on the Aboriginal Waters Access Map are currently restricted as per Traditional Aboriginal Owner instruction. You cannot enter these areas without a valid permit or Section 19 agreement. Penalties will apply.
- 12. What are the green zones?
Green zones on the Aboriginal Waters Access Map do not require a Recreational Fishing Permit or Section 19 agreement for access. These zones consist of key fishing areas that have agreements between Traditional Aboriginal Owners and the NT Government for long-term open access for the commercial, tourism and recreational fishing sectors.
- 13. How long can I apply for a Recreational Fishing Permit?
You can apply for a permit for a maximum of two weeks in a single application.
The NLC’s permit system will only allow you to apply for two consecutive two-week permits in a 30 day period.
- 14. Why is my application limited to two weeks?
Traditional Aboriginal Owners want to know who is out on their Country and when. Part of this is to ensure people stay safe on their Country.
Setting a two week limit and limiting the amount of permits that can be applied for in a 30 day period assists with compliance and safety checks, as it provides more accurate data about who is accessing Aboriginal land at any one time.
People seeking permits to access Aboriginal land and waters should only apply for a permit for the days they will be accessing the area.
- 15. What does 'automatic issue' mean?
If you provide the necessary information and follow all of the steps in applying for a permit, and the zone you have applied for is open to permit applications, you will automatically and immediately be issued a permit via email.
- 16. Why is the permit date ranged?
Supplying accurate information on a permit application, such as the start and end dates of your trip, allows accurate data to be collected for the recreational fishing industry which can contribute towards sustainable management decisions.
- 17. How far in advance can I apply for a permit?
You can apply for a permit up to 12 months in advance of your trip.
- 18. I am a permanent resident of a remote community, am I able to apply for permit for longer than 2 weeks?
Please contact the NLC to discuss your options.
- 19. Do I need to carry my permit with me?
Yes. You are required to have a copy of your permit with you when you enter Aboriginal land or waters. This can be a hard or electronic copy. You should save a copy of your permit for offline use in the event there is no reception in the permit area.
- 20. Do I need to show my permit if requested to do so?
Yes. It is a condition of your permit that you produce a copy of your permit when asked by NLC staff, Traditional Aboriginal Owners and rangers. You must also show your permit on request to enforcement agencies (e.g. NT Water Police) to show you are authorised to be in the permit area.
- 21. What happens if I don’t show my permit upon request?
If you fail to show your permit upon request, you will be in breach of your permit conditions which may result in your permit being revoked. If you enter and remain on Aboriginal land and waters without a valid permit, you may be liable for penalties under Commonwealth and Territory legislation.
- 22. Are Recreational Fishing Permits free?
Recreational Fishing Permits are currently administered by the NLC free of charge. Traditional Aboriginal Owners may choose to charge fees in the future.
There are some areas of Aboriginal land where permits incur fees.
- 23. If I am going fishing on Monday and then again on Friday, can I just apply for a week-long permit?
Although the system allows you to apply for a two-week permit, you should only apply for a permit for the days you will be fishing. This allows Traditional Aboriginal Owners to know who will be in the area and when. This information also assists with accurate data gathering and any search and rescue operations in the area.
- 24. If I have a Recreational Fishing Permit, do I also need a Transit Permit if I’m travelling through Aboriginal to get to my fishing spot?
Yes. The Recreational Fishing Permit only allows you to access Aboriginal waters by boat.
If you need to travel on Aboriginal land to access Aboriginal land and waters in the intertidal zone for recreational fishing, you will need a separate Transit Permit. For more information and to apply, see the 'Permits' page on this website.
- 25. Can I get off my boat to access Aboriginal land?
A Recreational Fishing Permit does not grant you access to Aboriginal land past the intertidal zone. Access to Aboriginal land adjacent to the intertidal zone (from the mean high water mark) requires a separate Aboriginal land access permit
- 26. If we’re travelling in a convoy of boats, does each person in each boat need a Recreational Fishing Permit?
Yes, each person travelling in a boat requires a permit, except for children under the age of 16 who are accompanied by their parent(s) who hold a valid permit.
- 27. For which areas do I need a Section 19 Land Use Agreement as a fishing tour operator (FTO)?
All zones which are marked in black, blue and purple on the Aboriginal Waters Access Map require a Section 19 agreement. Zone 3 and parts of Zone 4 are restricted until further notice by the decision of the Traditional Aboriginal Owners.
- 28. What is a Section 19 Land Use Agreement?
Please refer to the 'Land and Law' tab on the Northern Land Council website for all information about Section 19 Land Use Agreements.
- 29. I’m a fishing tour operator (FTO), do my clients need a permit?
Yes. If you have a valid Section 19 Land Use Agreement, you need to apply for a permit for each of your clients, as per your agreement.
- 30. Where can I fish in the Finniss River?
You can fish the northern bank of the Finniss River up to GPS points 12.53.12' S - 130.22.3968' E
Beyond this point is the Delissaville/Wagait/Larrakia Aboriginal Land Trust, access to which is currently restricted.
Access to the southern bank of the Finniss River is restricted.
- 31. Can I fish the Little Finniss River?
Access to the Little Finniss River is currently restricted as per Traditional Aboriginal Owners’ instructions. Any changes to this access will be communicated through updates on the NLC website.
- 32. Where can I fish in the East Alligator River?
You can fish in the East Alligator River up to Cahills Crossing at the boundary of Kakadu National Park and the Arnhem Land Aboriginal Land Trust.
The northern bank of the East Alligator River requires a permit to fish, as these waters are part of the Arnhem Land Aboriginal Land Trust.
- 33. Can I fish the Mini Mini system?
Access to the Mini Mini system is currently restricted as per Traditional Aboriginal Owners’ instruction. Any changes to this access will be communicated through updates on the NLC website.
- 34. Why do I need to provide my vessel, vehicle, and trailer details?
These details can be helpful in the event that rangers or police need to locate vessels or conduct search and rescue operations.
- 35. Why do I need to create an account (register), AND apply for a permit?
Any person applying for a Recreational Fishing Permit is required to set up an NLC permit account. Once you are registered in the NLC system, you are issued with an individual ‘Person ID’. Your account allows you to apply for various types of NLC permits which are all linked to your Person ID.
- 36. Can I apply for a permit on behalf of someone else?
Yes. All passengers travelling with you will need to register for an account in the NLC permit system. You will need to obtain their Person ID (provided after the registration process), first name, last name and email address to be able to add them onto your application. Parents can apply for a permit for children under 16 years of age, if they are travelling with them.
Information updated on 22 December 2022