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.

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

Mud crabs can be caught by using pots or baited nets. 


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 licence unit number.

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

Bait netting

You may also use a small mesh net to catch bait fish for use in your crab pot.

The nets must be set in the open sea within three nautical miles of the coast and you must always stay with the net. 

You must not use bait nets between Bing Bong - on the west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria - and the Queensland border.

There is a number of other closed areas around the coast.

For information read the Mud crab fishery management plan.


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 cm
  • females –15 cm.

Crabs are measured across the widest part of the carapace.

Last updated: 28 November 2017