Blue Mud Bay Plan will protect Aboriginal sea country rights

Date: Sep 1, 2020

Publication Type: Media Releases

Subject: Sea Rights, Native Title

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On 29 July 2020 the NLC and the NT Government signed the Blue Mud Bay Action Plan.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Selena Uibo, NLC chair Samuel Bush-Blanasi, Chief Minister Michael Gunner and NLC CEO Marion Marion Scrymgour.

In July 2008 the High Court of Australia, in the Blue Mud Bay case, found that Traditional Aboriginal 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 per cent of the NT coastline.

On 26 June 2019 at Nitmiluk, the NTG, the NLC, the NT Seafood Council, the Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the NT and the NT Guided Fishing Industry Association signed a Heads of Agreement document (the Nitmiluk Heads of Agreement).

The Action Plan implements the Nitmiluk Heads of Agreement with specific commitments up to the end of December 2022. Under the agreed Action Plan, the Northern Territory 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 Northern Territory;
  • 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.
  • 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 Northern Land Council 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.

Also under the Action Plan, the NTG and NLC commit to ongoing collaboration with the other parties to the Heads of Agreement and key stakeholders to implement the other elements of the Nitmuluk Heads of Agreement. The time frame to complete these discussions and actions will be the end of 2022.