Letter from Chairman

Dear FTO,

If you are not already an Association member I urge you to join as soon as possible. We need as many members as possible to ensure our concerns are acted upon by Government. The more we have the more clout we have at the conference table. Ring our Executive Officer, Lloyd Browne, on 8985 2981 or email him at inkwell@optusnet.com.au for more details.

If you attended our recent Annual General Meeting you will know that the NT Guided Fishing Industry is facing a very challenging 12 months. The main issues confronting us include:
• the recent Commonwealth Intervention on Aboriginal Reserves and the associated restrictions on alcohol;
• the Blue Mud Bay decision which granted ownership of the intertidal zone to Aboriginal traditional owners;
• the formulation of guidelines for the declaration of Marine Protected Areas in NT waters;
• the implementation of a Management Plan for the FTO Fishery.

These are all issues in which the Association has been pro-actively involved over the past 12 months. Our Executive Officer Lloyd Browne has represented and safeguarded your interests in these areas at a series of meetings convened to advise Government on the implementation of appropriate policy guidelines and/or to rectify deficiencies in existing administrative procedures. I have also attended a number of these meetings and intend to continue doing so as often as my business commitments will permit.

The Rudd Labor Government has expressed its intention to amend the Commonwealth Intervention on Aboriginal Reserves but to what extent is not yet clear. Labor in opposition backed the intervention but as alcohol is a major factor in child abuse and neglect, it is hard to see any major change to the Howard Liberal regime. Recent press announcements tend to confirm this view.

The Blue Mud Bay decision is currently under appeal before the High Court. Over the past year, the NTGFIA has met with representatives of all sectors of the NT fishing industry – both commercial and recreational – with a view to drafting non-exclusive strategies for accessing and utilizing the intertidal zone in the event that the appeal is dismissed. These meetings have been sponsored by the Northern Land Council and to date have been very positive and productive. Should Aboriginal ownership of these waters be confirmed, an entirely new fisheries management approach will be needed to fairly and equitably integrate the various user groups. A decision on the appeal is expected early in 2008. Meanwhile the Association will continue to negotiate with the various user groups on your behalf.

The implementation of Marine Protected Areas in other parts of Australia has had serious ramifications for both commercial and recreational fishers. Based on input from all NT affected sectors, the MPA Working Group is drafting guidelines under which such areas can be declared in NT waters with minimal disruption. It is my understanding that the public consultation phase in respect of the draft guidelines will commence in mid-2008.
Given the NT Government’s pre-election promises and the work which has already been done on the proposed Bynoe Harbour Marine Park it is possible that this will be one of the first areas which will be declared under NT MPA guidelines once they have been formalized.

At my request, representatives of the NT Fisheries Division attended our recent AGM (October 31) specifically to provide members with feedback on the Association’s FTO Fishery Management Plan lodged with the Department in June 2007. While it was gratifying to see our Fisheries colleagues attend the meeting, I was personally disappointed with progress to date on the implementation of the Plan. Information provided to the meeting clearly indicated that the FTO Management Plan has been accorded a very low priority within the Fisheries Division. This is completely unacceptable to the Association and it is intended to pursue the matter in 2008 by pointing out to Government that the Association’s agreement to the incremental increase in FTO licence fees was conditional upon the progressive implementation of policies which would benefit the industry and its members. To date, apart from agreeing in principal to an FTO Management Plan, the Government has done little to justify increasing licence fees in July 2008.

The Association has appointed Graeme Williams as its Membership Officer. Graeme’s job will be to increase our membership base and to this end he will shortly be in touch with all FTOs.

Finally I wish to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a merry Xmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

Robert Marchant
20 December 2007