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Alex's Fishing Column 17/11/22

There are some major issues impacting on recreational fishing that will be part of the agenda at tonight’s AFANT AGM.

AFANT will be updating the community on the year that was and hosting presentations about some of the biggest issues facing the recreational fishing sector in the Northern Territory.

AFANT CEO, David Ciaravolo, said: “Fishers concerned about their access to top barramundi fishing sports, a new policy to regulate surface water harvest, and the potential impacts of industrial and port development on the Elizabeth River should not miss this meeting.

The meeting kicks off at 6pm at the Travel Lodge Resort with registrations open from 5.15pm.

First on the agenda will be what the NT Government's new surface water harvesting policy means for barra and the future of the NT's iconic rivers.

“This is a really important opportunity to find out about the impact on barra because the policy needs to ensure that the amount of water taken will not have a detrimental impact on the barra stocks,” David said.

“There was a steering committee to advise Government on the policy and AFANT was very much a part of that.

“The NT Government’s Office of Water Security will be presenting a new draft policy to regulate wet season harvest from the Territory’s catchments and rivers.

“Currently, up to 20% of wet season flows could be allocated for harvest and consumptive use.

“However, the new draft policy sets out that only 5% can be allocated which is great news and welcomed by AFANT.

“What is a potential concern is that the new policy sets out a contingent rule that, if there is specific science that supports a greater allocation without detriment, the 5% water allocation that is proposed may change,” David explained.

“With wet season flows being the most important driver of productivity in the barramundi fishery, this will be a great opportunity for fishers to find out about the new draft policy and to put their questions to the government.

“One question that needs to be asked is what specific science would lead to a different allocation.

“Also, what kind of governance would be involved?

“We would say that it would have to be the subject of a formal water allocation plan,” David said.

No doubt there’ll be much discussion about the proposed Middle Arm Sustainable Development Project and how it might impact on your favourite harbour fishing spots.

However, looking at the map, most of the development appears to be more in East Arm than Middle Arm; it is very inclusive of the mouth and inside East Arm.

“The Middle Arm Sustainable Development Project is a new industrial precinct that the Government is looking to, and the current proposal seems to include major Port Development in East Arm,” David said.

“They’re looking to dredge the mouth of East Arm and build on the Elizabeth River side.

“The Federal Government has already committed $1.3 billion to the project,” David said.

Simon Flowers, Project Director for the Department of Infrastructure Planning and Logistics, will be explaining the project to the meeting, and letting people know there’ll be a “Have your say” opportunity on line.

The Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Selena Uibo, together with Paul Kirby, NT Minister for Agribusiness and Fisheries, will be giving an update on Blue Mud Bay and Bed and Banks Land Claims.

David will also update the meeting from an AFANT perspective, and there will be an opportunity for questions.

David said: “In the last 18 months, fishos have lost more access than any time since the 2008 decision of the High Court.

“We’ve lost Minnie Minnie and the Finniss River.

“In 2020, the NT Government gave $10 million to the Aboriginal Sea Company, a commercial fishing enterprise, and Aboriginal coastal licences can now take barra and mackerel,” David said.

“Meanwhile, recreational fishos have only lost access,” David explained.

There’ll be a rod and reel combo lucky door prize thanks to Fishing & Outdoor World, and also other prizes at the AGM.

It’s definitely a meeting not to be missed.

Adelaide’s Joe Mullen was on a fishing trip in the Top End and came away a winner after catching his first metrey barra at 105cm.


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