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.
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.
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.
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.
More information will be published over the next few months.
Read the fact sheet for licence holders about the key changes.
|Form||What the form is for|
|Fit and proper person application||Apply to be considered a 'fit and proper person' under the Northern Territory’s Fisheries Act 1988|
|Approved operator application||Apply to be an approved operator in the commercial fishing industry|
|Appointment of an approved operator notification - commercial fishing||Tell fisheries about the appointment or change of approved operator in charge of commercial fishing operations|
|Approved operator application - fishing guide||Apply to be an approved operator in in a fishing tour operation|
|Appointment of an approved operator notification - fishing guide||Tell fisheries about the appointment or change of approved operator in charge of a fishing tour operation|
|Transfer a commercial licence||Permanently transfer an NT commercial fishing licence - use this form if you sell or buy a licence|
|Register a fishing vessel||Register a vessel for commercial fishing in conjunction with a licence or permit|
|Crew list||Notify crew or fishing assistant names to the director of fisheries before starting fishing activities|
|Temporary licence transfer||Temporarily transfer a licence to another person, where the regulations allow this and within the licensing period|
|Timor Reef licence |
Timor Reef licence
|Apply for a Timor Reef licence.|
|Fish retailer or trader/processor licence including renewal |
|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 permit - to move aquatic life |
Section 11 permit - to move aquatic life
|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 special permit||Apply for a special permit for activities under section 17 of the Fisheries Act 1988|
|Temporary transfer of offshore net and line units between licences||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||Transfer offshore net and line fishery units from one licence holder to another|
|Transfer mud crab units |
Transfer mud crab units
|Temporarily transfer mud crab units between mud crab licences, within the licensing period|
|Nominated place for mud crab licence||Notify fisheries of your nominated place for storing excess fishing gear and crabs|
|Transfer fishery units||Apply to transfer Timor Reef, demersal, coastal line or offshore net and line units|
|Transfer quota units||Apply to transfer Timor Reef, demersal, coastal line or offshore net and line quota units|
|Net maker licence||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||For credit card payment, fill in the Fisheries Licensing credit card authorisation form|
Last updated: 04 July 2022
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