Parks Australia

What do you mean by ‘ghost net’?

‘Ghost Net’ is a common term for any abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear – it can also be referred to as ‘Ghost Gear’ or ‘Derelict Fishing Gear’. Ghost gear can include ropes, nets, lines, traps or any other materials used in fishing operations.

The reference to the word, ‘ghost’ relates to the lost materials aimlessly drifting in the ocean, unchecked yet continuing to indiscriminately catch marine species, causing injury or death.

How will this program help?

Addressing the issue of ghost nets is another step the Australian Government is taking to protect our marine environment for the benefit of all Australians now and into the future. The health of our oceans faces a broad range of pressures driven by the increasing use of ocean resources and human-driven environmental change.

Marine debris and plastics were listed as a key threatening process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) in 2003 after being recognised as a major problem affecting marine animals and their environment.

The Ghost Nets Initiative will reduce the threats posed to Australia’s marine wildlife, helping to protect our unique marine habitats and wildlife, and support continued cultural connections between Indigenous Australians and sea country, along with sustainable customary use of these areas.

Do ghost nets continue to cause harm once on the beach?

Ghost nets that are left to wash up on beaches can potentially re-enter the marine environment during large tidal and storm events.

They also have the potential to disturb and displace coastal plant and animal communities.

The materials which make up these ghost nets slowly deteriorate to eventually form microplastics which can cause damage to natural food webs and ecosystems.

There is evidence which indicates that clean beaches, free of large items of debris, see an increase in nesting turtles. This suggests that beach clean ups can provide an immediate and direct benefit to marine turtles.

Why is the Gulf of Carpentaria the focus?

The Gulf of Carpentaria is recognised as a global marine debris hotspot as currents and conditions in the Arafura and Timor Seas, as well as the Torres Strait, drive debris towards the area where it accumulates in the Gulf’s waters and washes up along the shoreline.

The Gulf of Carpentaria is home to marine turtles and dugongs, which are directly threatened by ghost nets, and are of vital economic, cultural, and spiritual importance to Indigenous Australians.

How can I get involved?

You can get in touch with the Ghost Nets team by emailing GhostNets@environment.gov.au