[Media Release]


AFANT, the peak body representing the recreational fishing sector in the Northern Territory is calling for urgent weight-based Barramundi catch quotas to be introduced for key Top End catchments including the Daly River and Roper River. This follows concerns that commercial fishers are targeting bigger harvests from important recreational and Traditional fishing areas, after access changes were announced last year.

Barramundi are big business in the NT, supporting thousands of jobs and forming the backbone of a $270M recreational fishing and fishing tourism industry. With over 60,000 or 1-in-3 adult Territorians going fishing each year, the social, health, and wellbeing benefits are widespread and well understood. Together, these factors should mean that optimal fishery management is a given, yet almost a week into the 2024 commercial barramundi fishing season, calls for government action to urgently protect some of the Territory’s most valuable and iconic fisheries remain unanswered.

Traditional Owners closed significant areas of intertidal waters to Barramundi netting in 2023. Last week, the Northern Land Council explained to the ABC that “TOs have deep, increasing concerns about the impacts of current commercial fishing practices, particularly gillnetting, and the impact on barramundi fish stocks that they are seeing in their communities.”

Up to 50% of the commercial Barramundi catch is understood to have been displaced by recent intertidal closures. Yet, while the fishing area has shrunk, the number of commercial fishing licenses and Km’s of gillnet remain the same, leading to genuine concerns of increased harvest from the remaining open catchments. AFANT has been engaged with the Northern Territory Government seeking the introduction of conservative, interim catch quotas to ensure that 2024 commercial catches do not exceed recent average harvest levels in any catchment. To date, there has been no announcement from the NT Government.

Quotes attributable to AFANT President Warren de With:
“We are calling on the government to urgently address the concerns of businesses and community members by implementing interim catchment-based commercial Barramundi quotas for 2024 .

“Conservatively limiting the weight of fish allowed to be netted in each catchment will help to ensure that the Territory’s most iconic recreational fishery is protected in the short term.”

Quotes attributable to AFANT CEO David Ciaravolo:
“We are seeking nothing more than the application of sensible policy, the Daly River and the Roper River Barramundi fisheries are world class and must be actively protected, not left to chance.

“It’s through recreational fishing, fishing tourism and Traditional fishing, that the publicly owned Barramundi fishery resources returns the vast majority of benefits and value to the Territory, and without conservative catch quotas in place those benefits and values remain under threat.


Further Background:

At the 2020 election the NT Government confirmed a commitment to review the Barramundi fishery. Resource sharing: the process through which catch, and area shares are decided has yet to take place and there has been little focus on management to improve the recreational, tourism or Traditional fishing. Most attention has been given to mitigating high levels of risk relating to interactions of commercial gillnets with threatened, endangered, and protected species, as well as improving certainty for the commercial sector as they seek export accreditation.

An Interim Commercial Harvest Strategy was introduced last year; however, it was not designed to address the loss of access and displacement that commercial fishers experienced in 2023, nor does it directly limit the amount of fish that can be commercially harvested from a river system in a given year.

Since October 2023, AFANT, along with the NT Guided Fishing Industry Association have been engaged with the department and the relevant Ministers to urge the introduction of interim measures to limit the commercial harvest of Barramundi to recent historical averages while longer term management arrangements can be developed.


The NT Government has responded, and in an update from Fisheries Licensing late on February 7 acknowledged the potential for displaced commercial effort to impact on recreational and tourism catch and experiences. Unfortunately, the interim arrangements that were announced do not implement quotas based upon recent average harvests, as we have been calling for. Instead they seek to limit the amount of netting in each catchment to above average fishing efforts (the year in the last 10 with the most fishing activity).

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