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Alex's Column 31 May 2024

A most important email went out recently to members of the Amateur Fishermen’s Association NT (AFANT).

It was also widely circulated to the general public, and details a questionnaire sent to both the NT Government and Opposition asking for their respective policies on recreational fishing should either party win Government at the August NT Election.

Titled “How will your party support a bright recreational fishing future for the Territory?”, the document’s preamble explains succinctly the profound importance of recreational fishing to Territorians socially, culturally and economically.

“With over 30% of men and women actively participating, great fishing is an essential component of livability for many Territorians,” the document stated.

“NT recreational fishing contributed $270 million to the Territory GDP in 2019 and supported 2500 fulltime jobs.”

If you’ve been following the most-debated-and-contentious issue in recreational fishing over the last year, you won’t be surprised at the first question in the questionnaire: “Will your party commit to genuine fishery reform and phase out gillnetting for barramundi over the next term of government?”

This is followed by: “If your party will not commit to a phase out/buy out of commercial barramundi gillnetting, how will your party protect the future of recreational barramundi fishing and address the serious issue of displaced commercial effort that has already been formally acknowledged and temporarily addressed with unsatisfactory interim arrangements for 2024?”

AFANT Exectutive Director, David Ciarovola, said: “This is a key message: we want to see reform in the barra fishery because we want to maintain the great fishery we have.

“Without that reform, our status as the best place to go fishing in Australia will be severely challenged.

“Barramundi gillnetting is being phased out on the east coast of Queensland by 2027 and new net-free zones have already been established on the Qld side of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

“Not only is the future of our world-class recreational barramundi fishing now under threat, but our main competitor for fishing tourism has also set a course for more abundant barramundi fisheries in the near future.

“This is especially problematic as the NT’s main competitive advantage for fishing tourism is our abundant fish stocks,” David explained.

Recreational fishing access was a key question asked of our two major political parties: “Will your party commit to ensuring that long-term recreational fishing access agreements are put before Traditional Owners for consideration in a timely manner; and that the benefits offered by the NTG in exchange for the agreements will be continuously reviewed for adequacy and flexibility, and be improved if necessary?”

“Access is so important,” David rightly said.

“We need funding for an AFANT officer to go out and work with land councils and Traditional Owners.

“We’re at the point now that we’re getting invited out by land councils and by TOs and we’re not able to go because we don’t have the resources.

“We have so say ‘No’ because we don’t have the money or people to go along.

“They want to meet us and talk to us on the ground at the very waters we want access to, but we’re restricted without adequate funding from Government,” David said.

Apart for barramundi management reform, I understand that the several questions are in no particular order, and include: fisheries management, fishing infrastructure and development, community and industry support, and water and environment.

“We’re really asking our members to question candidates what they’re doing about barra,” David explained.

“They’ll be huddling under gazebos at shows and elsewhere, and anglers are likely to be door-knocked by their local candidates over the next couple of months; so this is your chance to make sure they know what is important to you: ask ‘What about barra?’

“AFANT understands there is no ‘typical’ recreational fisher; there are, however, a range of specific policy decisions that will surely either impact, protect or improve their fishing.

"We see our role as helping to inform the 60,000 adult Territorians who fish, as well as the many businesses in our industry, where each political party stands on the issues important to their lifestyle and the future of our industry.

“We will never tell people how to vote, and we are committed to working with any future Government to ensure a bright fishing future for the Territory,” David said.

The major parties have been given until July 24 to respond.

AFANT will share the answers received with the recreational fishing community and industry members in the first week of August.

The Election Policy Questionnaire can be found on the AFANT website at:


One of several she caught that day, Roxy Woolley was overjoyed with the capture of her 90cm-plus barra at Nourlangie Creek.


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