The successful trial of a new GPS tracking system has seen two more deadly ‘ghost’ nets retrieved from the Torres Strait under the Australian Government’s $14.8-million Ghost Nets Initiative.
This comes as new CSIRO research uncovers more about the ways lost and discarded fishing gear circulates in Northern Australian waters.
Federal Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, said today (14 September) the trial of a tracking device had allowed the two foreign fishing nets to be safely retrieved so they cannot continue to harm marine species. Fish, turtles, dolphins and seabirds often die through entanglement in nets that become floating death traps.
“We are thrilled by the success of this first GPS tracking trial and look forward to continuing to tackle ghost nets head on,” the minister said.
Retrieved near two islands in the Torres Strait
“The two foreign ghost nets were retrieved from locations near Badu Island and Possession Island in the Torres Strait, and have now been safely unloaded and disposed of in Cairns.
“The voyage also picked up parts of a fish aggregating device from the ocean east of Cape York – including buoys, netting and bamboo.”
According to a statement issued by Ley, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, the Australian Border Force through its Maritime Border Command, and Parks Australia recently joined forces on a trial to improve how ghost nets are tracked and retrieved from the oceans around Australia.
A Border Force surveillance aircraft located the larger of the two ghost nets 10 nautical miles north-north-west off Badu Island in the Torres Strait. Officers on board a patrol boat then attached a tracking device to the net.
Fishing nets are massive and hard to remove
“When nets are first spotted it is not always possible for them to be immediately retrieved, as they can sometimes weigh up to 4 tonnes and span a length of almost 1 kilometre,” Ley explained.
“Improving our ability to detect and retrieve ghost nets through targeted tracking technology is key to the Government’s approach to protect our ocean and the species that live in it.”
The tracking trial comes as the CSIRO marine debris research team completes the most comprehensive analysis of aerial survey data of ghost nets in the Gulf of Carpentaria to date, with the study also funded under the Government’s Ghost Nets Initiative.
This study highlights that the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland and south of the Gove Peninsula in the Northern Territory are key hotspots for ghost nets and that the number of nets has increased over time, building on the important work many groups are doing to collect data on the ground.