Cultural fishing

Cultural Fishing RegulationA Garby elder

The Fisheries Management Act 1994 (the Act) aims “to recognise the spiritual, social and customary significance to Aboriginal persons of fisheries resources and to protect, and promote the continuation of Aboriginal cultural fishing.”

Aboriginal cultural fishing is defined in the Act as “fishing activities and practices carried out by Aboriginal persons for the purpose of satisfying their personal, domestic or communal needs, or for educational or ceremonial purposes or other traditional purposes, and which do not have a commercial purpose”.

Section 37 Cultural Fishing Authorities

If access to fisheries resources is needed beyond what the current cultural fishing rules provide for (for events such as for a large cultural gathering or ceremonies), application for an authority (permit) can be made under section 37 of the Act. Section 37 of the Act can also accommodate cultural fishing practices for lager groups or classes of persons in the form of a section 37 order.

Cultural fishers standing around a boatDownload the Application for an Authority to take fish for Aboriginal cultural fishing purposes (PDF, 153.84 KB). Forms can also be obtained from any local Fisheries office or by contacting (02) 4424 7400 . Department staff are available to help complete this form. Every application is unique and processing times will vary. Applicants should ensure all relevant information is provided in full and allow for at least six (6) weeks processing time. If you require a permit for an event or gathering at short notice, please contact department staff directly to discuss ways in which we can support your application. Delays in processing time may occur when applications require amendments or further consultation.

As of January 2024, over 165 applications have been processed. A wide range of community events and cultural fishing activities including;

  • NAIDOC week celebrations
  • Youth camps and cultural knowledge transfer activities
  • Commemorative events and Sorry Business
  • Seasonal harvest of culturally significant species
  • Community gatherings and celebrations
Inland (NSW Murray Darling Basin)-
South Coast (Illawarra - Vic Border)81
North Coast (Newcastle - Tweed)69
Sydney Region15

Cultural resource use in NSW Marine Parks

The Marine Estate Management Act 2014 provides the legislative framework for the creation of a system of marine protected areas in NSW.

Aboriginal cultural fishing is permitted within marine parks if it:

Along with a marine parks permit, a section 37 cultural fishing authority may also be required to support cultural fishing activities if the activities are contrary to current fishing rules and regulations.

Cultural use of fisheries resources is supported in marine parks by our Aboriginal Engagement and Cultural Use of Fisheries Resources Policy (PDF, 171 KB).

Recreational Fishing Licence Fee – exemption

Fishers who are Aboriginal persons are exempt from paying a recreational fishing fee. Removing barriers to accessing the resource is in keeping with recognition under the Act of the spiritual social and customary significance of fishing to Aboriginal people.

Aboriginal Fishing and Cultural workshops

Aboriginal man and boy fishingA number of fishing and cultural workshops for Aboriginal children are undertaken each year as part of a state-wide program run by the department and supported by funds from the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust.

These workshops are undertaken in partnership with Aboriginal groups/organisations and educators, and are free to participants.

The workshops are fun events which offer Aboriginal children the chance to gain useful fishing skills. The workshops also give opportunities for the parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles to share and impart their cultural knowledge and experiences with the children.

Children receive a fishing rod, reel, hat, tackle box, educational material and a Certificate of Achievement recognising the knowledge and experience they have gained on fishing and Aboriginal culture.

The activities include a guided fishing session and talks on:

  • rules and regulations
  • fishing safety
  • conservation of fish habitats
  • cleaning your catch
  • knot tying
  • line rigging and baiting
  • casting techniques and retrieval of fish
  • Aboriginal culture

Workshops are for school children (minimum age 8). A workshop will generally last no more than 6 hours and the maximum number of participants is 25.

Limited numbers of workshops are available each year.

For more information contact Fisheries Community Relations Manager, George Mannah by email ( or phone 02 8437 4915.