Commercial fishing licences

Commercial fishers must hold a licence or permit before they can fish in Northern Territory (NT) waters.

Licences are granted, renewed and managed by NT Fisheries.

Limit on commercial licences

If you want to be a commercial fisher in the NT, you will have to buy or lease an existing licence from a current licence holder.

The number of licences available in each fishery is restricted. Refer to the individual fishery pages for information about licence availability.

Buy, sell or lease a licence

If you want to buy, sell or lease an existing licence you can contact Fisheries Licensing to request contact details for current licence holders.

Senior Licensing Officer (08) 8999 2370
Licensing Officer (08) 8999 2183
FisheriesLicensing@nt.gov.au

Before you can fish

You must do all of the following before you can commercially fish: 

  • be approved for a licence for a particular fishery
  • register the vessel to be used under the licence
  • make sure the person in charge of the vessel is the person named on the licence.

Special permits

You need special permits for some activities that would otherwise be illegal under NT law.

You will need to apply for a permit if you want to do any of the following:

  • release fish into NT waters
  • import live fish or aquatic life into the NT
  • translocate live fish or aquatic life within the NT
  • take fish or aquatic life not normally allowed
  • use fishing gear prohibited under fisheries legislation
  • discharge a toxic substance into waterways
  • use an electrofishing device.

Permit to import or move fish - section 11

You need a section 11 permit to import fish and aquatic life into the NT, or to move fish and aquatic life within the NT.  

For a list of the aquatic species you can import into the NT visit the Australian Government's Legislation website

Download the form from the list below.

Special permit - section 17

Under a section 17 permit you may take fish or aquatic life that may not normally be allowed. 

You may also use gear that is otherwise not allowed under fisheries law. 

A section 17 permit is generally for education activities, research or carrying out trials and experiments with fishing vessels or gear. 

It may also be issued for sport or recreation for a disabled person who would otherwise be unable to fish.

Download the form from the list below.

Permits need to be approved by the Director of Fisheries, who can impose conditions.

Changes to commercial fishing licences from 1 January 2017

Changes to the Fisheries Act and Regulations to reduce red tape and increase biosecurity will come into effect on 1 January 2017.

Read the information below to see if you will be affected.

Licence length and operators

Instead of holding a licence for five years, you will be able to hold it for 10 years.

You may be issued a permit for up to five years.

The Fisheries Act will refer to approved operators instead of nominated persons, and it will no longer refer to short term operators. You will still be able to transfer licences.

New authorisation: approved operator card

Everyone responsible for a commercial fishing or fishing tour operation will need to apply for a new type of authorisation known as an approved operator card. This includes licensees if they operate their own licence.

To qualify you will need to pass a national police check and must not have committed a major fishing-related or other significant offence in the previous five years. You will only be endorsed for fisheries where you have successfully completed an associated interview. 

 Approved operator cards will be valid for five years.

Both commercial fishing and fishing tour licensees must appoint an approved operator to undertake fishing operations.

The Director of Fisheries will publish a list of approved operators on this website.

How to apply for authorisation

To apply for authorisation, you will need to fill in the relevant version of the following forms and submit them to Fisheries Licensing. You do not have to pay a fee for the authorisation.

Apply to be recognised as a fit and proper person to hold a licence and authorisation (65.1 kb)
Apply to become an approved operator - commercial fishing (61.3 kb)
Apply to become an approved operator - fishing tour operator (71.8 kb)

How to appoint an approved operator

Once you have become, or appointed, an approved operator to be in charge of your fishing operation, you need to tell the department.  Fill in the form which applies to your operation and send it to Fisheries Licensing.

Appointment of an approved operator notification - commercial fishing (70.3 kb) 
Appointment of an approved operator notification - fishing guide
(68.4 kb)

Vessel registration

Vessels will be able to be registered for up to 10 years.

You will have 28 days instead of seven days to notify the Director of a change of address.

Further changes

More information will be published over the next few months.

You can contact Fisheries Licensing with your questions by phoning (08) 8999 2183 or emailing fisherieslicensing@nt.gov.au.

Read a fact sheet for licence holders about the key changes:

Licence application forms

Name of formWhat the form is for
Fit and proper person application (65.1 kb)Apply to be considered a “fit and proper person” under the Northern Territory’s Fisheries Act.
Approved operator application (61.3 kb)Apply to be an approved operator in the commercial fishing industry
Appointment of an approved operator notification - commercial fishing (70.3 kb)Tell Fisheries about the appointment or change of approved operator in charge of commercial fishing operations
Approved operator application - fishing guide
(71.8 kb)
Apply to be an approved operator in in a fishing tour operation
Appointment of an approved operator notification - fishing guide
(68.4 kb)

Tell Fisheries about the appointment or change of approved operator in charge of a fishing tour operation

Transfer a commercial licence (58.6 kb) Permanently transfer an NT commercial fishing licence. Use this form if you sell or buy a licence

Register a fishing vessel (56.4 kb)

Register a vessel for commercial fishing in conjunction with a licence or permit

Crew list (58.0 kb)

Notify crew or fishing assistant names to the Director of Fisheries before starting fishing activities

Temporary licence transfer (56.9 kb)

Temporarily transfer a licence to another person, where the regulations allow this and within the licensing period

Timor Reef licence (43.5 kb)
Timor Reef licence (84.2 kb)

Apply for a Timor Reef licence. This must be accompanied by an application to transfer Timor Reef Quota or Fishery units

Transfer Timor Reef Fishery units (59.3 kb)

Transfer Timor Reef Fishery units from one licence holder to another

Transfer Timor Reef quota units (59.7 kb)

Transfer Timor Reef quota units from one licence holder to another

Fish retailer or trader/processer licence (59.5 kb)

Apply for a fish retailer licence to process fish or aquatic life for sale to the final consumer - eg: fish and chip shop, restaurant, market stall. 

Apply for a trader/processor licence for processing fish or aquatic life for resale - eg: fish market.

Fish retailer licence including renewal
(apply online)

Apply or renew online for a fish retailer licence to process fish or aquatic life for sale to the final consumer - eg: fish and chip shop, restaurant, market stall. 

Section 11 permit - to move aquatic life (50.8 kb)
Section 11 permit - to move aquatic life (78.6 kb)

Apply for permission to move aquatic life within the NT or bring aquatic life into the NT,  and other activities under section 11 of the Fisheries Act

Section 17 special permit (57.6 kb)

Apply for a special permit for activities under Section 17 of the Fisheries Act

Temporary transfer of offshore net and line units between licences (57.9 kb)

Temporarily transfer offshore net and line fishery units between offshore net and line licences, within the licensing period

Permanently transfer offshore net and line units (58.1 kb)

Transfer offshore net and line fishery units from one licence holder to another

Transfer mud crab units (57.8 kb)
Transfer mud crab units (69.3 kb) 
Temporarily transfer mud crab units between mud crab licences, within the licensing period

Nominated place for mud crab licence (57.6 kb)

Notify Fisheries of your nominated place for storing excess fishing gear and crabs

Coastal line quota units transfer (60.3 kb)Transfer quota units to another coastal line fishery licence
Coastal line fishery fishing units transfer (59.3 kb)Permanently transfer fishery units to another offshore net and line fishery licence
Transfer demersal quota units (57.4 kb)Transfer quota units to another demersal fishery licence
Transfer demersal fishery units (57.9 kb)Permanently transfer fishery units to another demersal fishery licence
Net maker licence (56.9 kb)Apply to sell, make or repair net or be in possession of net material from which fishing net may be made including gill net. Not required for amateur net
Credit card authorisation form (35.4 kb)For credit card payment complete the Fisheries licensing credit card authorisation form

Last updated: 13 October 2017