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.

You should also find out about rules and current agreements for fishing on Aboriginal land.

The number of licences available in a fishery may be restricted.

You should read more about fishery licences for information about licence availability.

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

You can:

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.

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, go to the Australian Government's Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water website.

Get the form under the 'licence applications' section 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.

Get the form under the 'licence applications' section below.

Permits need to be approved by the director of fisheries, who can impose conditions.

Changes to the Fisheries Act 1988 and regulations to reduce red tape and increase biosecurity came into effect on 1 January 2017.

Read the information below to find out more.

Licence length and operators

Instead of holding a licence for 5 years, you will be able to hold it for 10 years.

You may be issued a permit for up to 5 years.

The 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 offences in the previous 5 years. You will only be endorsed for fisheries where you have successfully completed an associated interview.

Approved operator cards will be valid for 5 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 must 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 DOCX (66.5 KB)

Apply to become an approved operator - commercial fishing DOCX (70.1 KB)

Apply to become an approved operator - fishing tour operator DOCX (77.1 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 must tell the department.

You can do this by filling in the relevant form below and submitting it to Fisheries Licensing.

Appointment of an approved operator notification - commercial fishing DOCX (71.5 KB)

Appointment of an approved operator notification - fishing guide DOCX (69.7 KB)

Vessel registration

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

You will have 28 days instead of 7 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 calling 08 8999 2183 or emailing fisherieslicensing@nt.gov.au.

Read the fact sheet for licence holders about the key changes.

Changes to the Fisheries Act and regulations PDF (805.9 KB)
Changes to the Fisheries Act and regulations DOCX (67.0 KB)

Form What the form is for
Fit and proper person information form DOCX (66.5 KB)
Fit and proper person information form PDF (249.2 KB) 
Apply to be considered a 'fit and proper person' under the Northern Territory’s Fisheries Act 1988
Be an approved operator (commercial fisheries) DOCX (70.1 KB)
Be an approved operator (commercial fisheries) PDF (284.3 KB) 
Apply to be an approved operator in the commercial fishing industry
Notification of an appointment or change of an approved operator (commercial fisheries) DOCX (71.5 KB)
Notification of an appointment or change of an approved operator (commercial fisheries) PDF (293.5 KB)
Tell fisheries about the appointment or change of approved operator in charge of commercial fishing operations
Be an approved operator (fishing guide) DOCX (77.1 KB)
Be an approved operator (fishing guide) PDF (284.3 KB)
Apply to be an approved operator in in a fishing tour operation
Notification of an appointment or change of an approved operator (fishing guide)
DOCX (69.7 KB)

Notification of an appointment or change of an approved operator (fishing guide)  PDF (290.5 KB)
Tell fisheries about the appointment or change of approved operator in charge of a fishing tour operation
Transfer of an NT licence DOCX (60.5 KB)
Transfer of an NT licence PDF (268.2 KB) 
Permanently transfer an NT commercial fishing licence - use this form if you sell or buy a licence
A vessel registration DOCX (58.3 KB)
A vessel registration PDF (247.2 KB)
Register a vessel for commercial fishing in conjunction with a licence or permit
Registration of assistants (crew) DOCX (58.4 KB)
Registration of assistants (crew) PDF (263.1 KB) 
Notify crew or fishing assistant names to the director of fisheries before starting fishing activities
Enter into a temporary transfer agreement DOCX (58.8 KB)
Enter into a temporary transfer agreement PDF (267.6 KB) 
Temporarily transfer a licence to another person, where the regulations allow this and within the licensing period
The grant of a Timor Reef fishery licence DOCX (46.8 KB)
The grant of a Timor Reef fishery licence PDF (200.3 KB)
Apply for a Timor Reef fishery licence
Fish retailer or trader processor licence application including renewal - apply online Apply for or renew a fish retailer licence or trader/processor licence - use this form if you process fish or aquatic life for sale, either to a final consumer (eg. fish and chip shop) or for resale (eg. a fish market)
Section 11 - the movement of fish or aquatic life DOCX (51.4 KB)
Section 11 - the movement of fish or aquatic life PDF (312.1 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 1988
Section 17 - a special permit DOCX (58.3 KB)
Section 17 - a special permit PDF (280.8 KB) 
Apply for a special permit for activities under section 17 of the Fisheries Act 1988
Transfer mud crab fishery units DOCX (58.6 KB)
Transfer mud crab fishery units PDF (280.4 KB) 
Temporarily transfer mud crab units between mud crab licences, within the licensing period
A nominated place for mud crab DOCX (58.2 KB)
A nominated place for mud crab PDF (264.3 KB) 
Notify fisheries of your nominated place for storing excess fishing gear and crabs
Transfer fishery units DOCX (59.8 KB)
Transfer fishery units PDF (282.9 KB) 
Apply to transfer Timor Reef, demersal, coastal line or offshore net and line units
Transfer quota units DOCX (63.1 KB)
Transfer quota units PDF (283.7 KB) 
Apply to transfer Timor Reef, demersal, coastal line or offshore net and line quota units
A licence to make repair or sell net DOCX (57.8 KB)
A licence to make repair or sell net PDF (178.7 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

Last updated: 25 October 2022

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