Northern Territory fisher and AFTA Ambassador Rocky Edwards, reports that over the past 20 years, the number of women fishers in the Northern Territory has grown considerably. The annual calendar of women-only fishing events in the NT has grown (at times) to 5 tournaments a year with 150-190 female competitors in each event.

The recently held Secret Women’s Business Barra Challenge attracted over 53 teams, with an additional 59 teams on the waitlist. That’s an incredible number of women fishers that could potentially number around 400 competitors if the event didn’t cap the number of boats. This event is in its 17th year and has no male skippers onboard. It’s most likely the country’s only true all-female Fishing event.

The fishing event that triggered these high participation events occurred in the early 2000s on the iconic Corroboree Billabong. A local NT woman, Emma Cartwright, created the Reel Women’s Fishing Competition to encourage more female participation. This event was held on a safe waterway (except for the hazards of saltwater crocodiles) for novice female boaters and fishers. The competition categories included male skippered teams and independent female teams. This initiative targeted non-boaters and fishers to participate and learn on a safe waterway, and it was the platform that allowed women to experience fishing.

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation recently released the Social and Economic Survey of Recreational Fishers 2018-2021. The good news for the Northern Territory was the ever-increasing participation rates of women fishers in the NT. We already know that many of the NT population fish and that we receive many visiting fishers each year. The survey confirmed that the participation rates of NT women were 33% and were higher than the national average of 17.8% and marginally higher than the NT male participation rates of 32.7% in the NT. These numbers boosted recreational fishing contributions to the NT economy of $270 million. Employment directly related to recreational fishing creates over 1700 jobs, with a further 750 jobs flowing from other related industries within the NT.

These incredible statistics confirm what is well known in the Top End of Australia and, I suspect, similar in the top end of WA and QLD.  It is a different dynamic to observe popular boat ramps of the NT and see many families, couples and ladies heading out for a fish. Thanks to opportunities and terrific male champions in the NT, it’s an acceptable and acknowledged part of Top End culture.