Fisheries and Aquaculture
Northern Territory Fisheries Overview
The seas, inshore areas and waterways of the Northern Territory (NT) hold an abundance of aquatic life and are underpinned by the relatively pristine nature of much of the NT’s environment. As a result, the harvesting of resources from the aquatic environment continues to contribute strongly to both the economic and social development of the NT.
For the continued benefit and use of these valuable resources into the future, fishing and related activities are managed in an ecologically sustainable manner, with minimal impact on the broader ecosystem. The Department of Resources is responsible for administering the NT’s Fisheries Act 1988 which provides for the regulation, conservation and sustainable management of fisheries and fishery resources. Close consultation and liaison with key stakeholder groups, including commercial, recreational and indigenous fishing sectors as well as conservation groups, is essential for achieving these objectives .
Key Industry Facts
- In 2009 the estimated gross value of production (GVP) at the point of first sale from wild stock harvest fisheries and aquaculture activities in the NT was $34.6 million and $25.1 million, respectively. This does not include the Northern Prawn Fishery which is managed by the Commonwealth.
- The three highest estimated catch value wild harvest fisheries in the NT in 2009 were the offshore snapper fisheries ($13.4 million), mud crab ($11.2 million) and barramundi ($4.9 million). Other high value fisheries include the offshore net and line (shark and grey mackerel), finfish trawl and Spanish mackerel.
- The two highest production value aquaculture activities in 2009 were pearling ($18.9 million) and barramundi ($4.9 million).
Source: 2011-12 NT Budget.
- The Northern Territory Seafood Council (NTSC) estimates that over $1.4 billion is invested in licences, vessels and equipment operated in waters adjacent to the Northern Territory, land based support structures and aquaculture ventures.
- More than 650 businesses are directly involved in the professional seafood industry, many having come from interstate to re-establish in the Northern Territory.
- A significant number of businesses such as chandlers, mechanics, boat yards, electricians, refrigeration specialists, carpenters, welders and other service providers are also dependent on a healthy seafood industry for their continuing viability.
- Presently there are more than 250 registered commercial vessels in the industry.
All Northern Territory fisheries are managed under the principles of ecologically sustainable development. There are no fisheries which are described as over-fished in the Northern Territory.
Depending on licence type, commercial fisheries may include all inland and marine waters and out to 200 nautical miles at the outer boundary of the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone.
Important Commercial Fisheries of the Northern Territory
Spanish mackerel are found throughout tropical and subtropical coastal waters of the Indo-west Pacific, from Africa to Fiji. In Australian waters, they are found from the southern tip of Western Australia, throughout northern Australian waters and down the east coast to the south coast of New South Wales. The Northern Territory (NT) Spanish Mackerel Fishery is based on the capture of the narrow-barred Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson), using trolled lures or baited lines.
Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) is an iconic species that supports important commercial and recreational fisheries. The commercial Barramundi Fishery operates from the high water mark to three nautical miles seaward from the low water mark and is restricted to waters seaward of the coast, river mouth or closure lines.
The black jewfish (Protonibea diacanthus), is a member of the Sciaenidae family, which is also known worldwide as croaker or drum due to the distinct drumming noise it makes. Black jewfish is a primary target for the NT’s coastal line fishery.
The Mud Crab (Scylla serrata) Fishery is one of the key NT managed wild harvest fisheries. Both male and female mud crabs can be retained in the NT. The fishery operates in near-shore locations around the NT coastline.
|Offshore species||The commercial Offshore Net and Line Fishery (ONLF) is a mixed target fishery. The target species are blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus tilstoni, C.limbatus and C. sorrah) and grey mackerel (Scomberomorus semifasciatus), with a variety of other sharks and pelagic finfish also landed.|
Enquiries for investment in commercial fishing should be directed in the first instance to:
NT Seafood Council
Tel: +61 8 8981 5194
The Northern Territory Government is committed to the ecologically sustainable development of a vibrant and viable aquaculture industry and it is recognised that aquaculture can deliver significant economic and social benefits to the people of the Northern Territory and Australia.
The production of pearls from the silver-lipped pearl oyster is currently the most significant aquaculture industry sector in the NT with an estimated annual value in excess of $17 million. This quota-managed industry currently has six licensed producers who obtain their oysters either from the wild (dived shell) or from hatchery raised stock. Pearl farms are located at Bynoe Harbour, Coburg Peninsula and around the islands north west of Nhulunbuy.
Barramundi is the NT’s next most valuable aquaculture industry. In 2009 barramundi farming was worth nearly $5 million. It is expected that farmed barramundi production will continue to show consistent growth in coming years.
A number of other species including giant clams, aquarium fish, mud crabs and especially sea cucumbers all have potential to be farmed successfully.
The NT’s pristine marine environment and government support means that aquaculture will remain an important industry.
Potential investors interested in exploring options for investing in the NT aquaculture industry are directed to discuss their proposal with the staff of:
Aquaculture Branch of the Fisheries Group
Tel: +61 8 8924 4268
Recreational fishing is a major Northern Territory industry. A survey conducted in 2000 found that more than $35 million was spent on recreational fishing including $9 million by visitors to the NT.
Seventy per cent of recreational fishing takes place in regional areas of the Territory. In some locations it is the major economic driver.
The recreational fishing sector in the NT is supported by:
Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the Northern Territory (AFANT)
Tel: +61 8 8945 6455
Fishing tour operators are represented by:
Northern Territory Guided Fishing Industry Association (NTGFIA)
Tel: +61 8 8985 2981
NT Fisheries works in partnership with the commercial and recreational fishing industries, the aquaculture industry, Indigenous communities and other stakeholders to achieve optimum sustainable utilisation of the Northern Territory’s valuable aquatic resources.
It follows a consultative and precautionary-based approach to ensure NT wild harvest fisheries, aquaculture and associated aquatic resources are ecologically, economically and socially sustained.
Fisheries resource management programs are based on high quality scientific information and are designed to ensure the Territory’s aquatic resources are not over-exploited.
The Northern Territory Government operates the Darwin Aquaculture Centre (DAC), a modern marine aquaculture facility which encompasses a research and development section and a commercial arm. Current activities of the DAC include assisting commercialisation of sea cucumber aquaculture technology and research into improved management of aquatic animal disease and more efficient production of farmed aquatic species. The commercial arm produces barramundi fingerlings for industry.
Content current at 23 May 2011.