Mud crab fishery and licences

You must have a mud crab licence to commercially fish for crabs in the Northern Territory (NT).


There are 49 licences for crab fishing in the NT, each of which is allowed 60 pots.

All licences are already allocated.

Read more about buying, selling or leasing a commercial licence.

Apply to use a secondary vessel

You can only use one vessel to catch, take or harvest mud crabs. However, you can apply to use a secondary vessel for other purposes.

The secondary vessel can only be used:

  • to store or transport commercial fishing gear such as pots and catch or
  • as a spare fishing vessel to catch or take mud crabs - but not at the same time as your primary vessel
  • as accommodation.

To apply, fill in the application to use a secondary vessel.

Application to use a secondary vessel PDF (119.2 KB)
Application to use a secondary vessel DOCX (57.4 KB)

Fishing area

Crabbing is generally confined to coastal mudflats and estuaries.

Most commercial activity is concentrated in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Some fishers also operate along the north Arnhem Land coast, Van Diemen Gulf, Chambers Bay and west to Anson Bay.

Commercial crab fishing is banned in all of the following areas:

  • Darwin Harbour
  • most creeks adjoining Shoal Bay
  • Leaders Creek
  • waterways of Kakadu National Park.

Fishing method

Commercial operators can use complying marine pots to catch mud crabs.

Crab pots are baited with fresh meat or fish and set in estuarine and coastal waters.

Pots must have a float attached that is marked with the vessel identification number.

The pot must be less than half a cubic metre in volume and no bigger than 1 metre across in any direction.

For more information read the Mud Crab Fishery Management Plan 2006.


More than 99% of the commercial catch is the giant mud crab, with the rest being the orange mud crab.

Both male crabs and female crabs - without eggs attached - can be caught in the NT.

The minimum legal sizes are:

  • males – 14 centimetres
  • females –15 centimetres.

Crabs are measured across the widest part of the carapace.

Last updated: 26 August 2021

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