Blue Mud Bay Action deal will protect Aboriginal sea country rights

Date: Aug 6, 2020

Subject: Sea Rights

The NLC and the NT Government signed the Blue Mud Bay Action Plan on 29 July.

“The Action Plan provides sea country traditional owners with a clear pathway to achieving culturally appropriate economic and employment outcomes that will benefit our mob for generations to come,” said NLC CEO Marion Scrymgour.

In mid-2008 the High Court of Australia, in the Blue Mud Bay case, found that traditional owners have the right to control access to waters overlying ‘Aboriginal Land’ including the intertidal zone. That means that traditional owners control access to around 85% of the NT coastline.

In June 2019 at Nitmiluk, the NTG, the NLC, the NT Seafood Council, the NT Amateur Fishermen’s Association and the NT Guided Fishing Industry Association signed the Nitmiluk Heads of Agreement. The Action Plan implements this agreement with specific commitments up to the end of 2022.

These commitments are too extensive to list here, but include for example, ‘the NT Government will provide funding 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 NT’. It also sets out NLC’s commitments, for example, ‘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’.

NLC Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said: “Following the election we look forward to working closely with the NT government to develop and deliver a new Fisheries Act, which will reflect the undeniable fact of Aboriginal ownership of sea country and the need to implement sustainable and appropriate policies for the future management of our fisheries and protection of this most precious resource”.