A first of its kind study of the iconic Mangrove Jack fish is underway to understand the stock structure across northern Australia and ensure this popular species remains sustainable into the future.

The Territory’s recreational and commercial fishing sector is worth a combined total of $406 million to the Territory Economy with the aquaculture and commercial industry responsible for 941 local full-time jobs through fishing, businesses and services that support the sector.

While recreational fishing is part of Territorians regular lifestyle, it is also a huge drawcard for visitors keen to wet a line in the waterways of the NT.

The Basement Jacks – Where’s your stock at? Understanding stock structure and connectivity of Mangrove Jack in northern Australia study is a collaboration between the Northern Territory and Australian Governments, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the Northern Territory (AFANT), the seafood industry, Indigenous ranger groups and other States and Territories.

A key component of the study is for recreational and commercial anglers across northern Australia to donate Mangrove Jack frames, once filleted, to the research team. 

Mangrove Jack frames can be dropped off at Fishing and Outdoor World Darwin, Craig’s Fishing Warehouse, and Complete Angler and Camping World Darwin with all fishers given a free Basement Jacks fishing lure for their efforts.

Mangrove Jack can live more than 50 years, grow to over a metre in size with the typical distribution in Australian waters extending from Exmouth, Western Australia right around northern Australia to Sydney. Popular amongst recreational, commercial and Indigenous fishers, the Mangrove Jack is known for its aggressive feeding and tendency to aggregate, which also makes the species vulnerable to overfishing.

Observers working on commercial vessels are taking part in the study as well as Indigenous ranger groups including the Gummurr Marthakal rangers in Elcho Island and the Li-Anthawirriyarra rangers in the Borroloola region.

Collection of samples has commenced and will continue for the next 18 months with the results of the study to be released in June 2026.

To find out more on how you can get involved head to industry.nt.gov.au/basement-jacks

“The Territory Labor Government is working to ensure the Northern Territory continues to benefit from a strong, sustainable and diverse recreational fishing industry.

“The Territory’s recreational and commercial fishing sector is worth a combined $406 million – bringing in tourists, boosting our economy, and creating more jobs for Territorians and local businesses.

“It is vital we keep our fisheries sustainable and this research study will have a very real impact in terms of improving our understanding of the Mangrove Jack and its stocks.”

Joel Bowden

Minister for Recreational Fishing

“The NLC was pleased to see NT Fisheries actively engage Aboriginal ranger groups and community members to support sea country research projects.

“The NLC recognises involvement of local Aboriginal people provides a broader dataset especially for remote area data collection, whilst providing an opportunity for relationship building and community education.

“This initiative will allow Traditional Owners, rangers and communities to contribute to data that can inform policy decisions and lead to future opportunities for Aboriginal people to be involved in Fisheries research and management initiatives.”

Joe Martin-Jard

CEO, Northern Land Council

“The Northern Territory Seafood Council strongly believes that evidence-based decision making is critical to drive effective regulation, policy and practice to ensure a thriving and sustainable seafood industry.

“It is great to see partnership approaches between scientists, ranger groups, recreational anglers and the seafood industry to better understand Mangrove Jack stocks and distribution.

“This collective effort ensures that decisions are based on a comprehensive understanding of the species’ stock structure, movement patterns, and conservation needs.’”

Katherine Winchester

CEO Katherine Winchester, NT Seafood Council

“We are pleased to be working with NT Fisheries and other project partners on this important research to better understand Mangrove Jack stocks around the Top End.

“Fishers have a unique opportunity to contribute to this project just by donating their Mangrove Jack frames to science and AFANT is working with our partners and our community to help ensure this aspect of the project is a success.”

David Ciaravolo