Thursday, September 21, 2017

Indigenous Australians call for ban on fishing in traditional waterways

Arnhem Land
Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory (NT) have called for a ban on commercial fishing in their waterways.

Traditional owners of Arnhem Land, the region in the far northeastern corner of the NT, claim that commercial fishing has restricted their ability to feed their families.

"We're just upset, they've been doing this for too long, and our catch rate is going right down especially for barramundi," Julius Kernan, a member of Maningrida community, told Australian media on Thursday.

"I've got three sons who hunt every day, they're having problems (catching fish) and it's happening right in front of us.

Arnhem Land is 500 kilometers east of Darwin, the NT's capital, and is home to the iconic Kakadu National Park.

The Australian High Court in 2008 granted exclusive coastal water rights to native land owners but the decision has not yet been implemented with the Northern Land Council in May extending free access to the waterways.

"We've always heard what's coming out of Maningrida: that Aboriginal people want to be involved in the management of fish stocks, they want to be comforted by the fact that any marine mammal impacts are taken care of, and that sacred sites are looked after," Joe Morrison, leader of the Northern Land Council, said.

Australia's Seafood Council said it was drawing up a code of conduct for its members in response to a petition presented to NT Chief Minister Michael Gannon by Kernan and members of the North Wind Fisheries Committee.

"We need to make sure that there's actually viable fisheries out there to be a part of, and so one our key responsibilities and focuses is on making sure the commercial fisheries out there have best practice in place, and more importantly they're doing things sustainably from an environmental and economic perspective," Katherine Winchester from the council said.

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