Parks Australia

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Two discarded foreign fishing nets have been removed from the Torres Strait with the help of a GPS tracking device, as the Australian Government makes new waves in its fight to tackle abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear under the Ghost Nets Initiative.

A 2 tonne net was successfully tracked and retrieved from near Badu Island by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) in late June, after an Australian Border Force (ABF) patrol boat spotted the net and fixed it with a GPS tracker back in April.

A smaller 750 kg net and a fish aggregating device (FAD) made of buoys, netting and bamboo were also removed from near Possession Island on the same voyage.

This is the first time Australian Government agencies have worked together to use a GPS tracker to continually track a ghost net while it is drifting, so that its retrieval can be safely arranged by an appropriate vessel.

When ghost nets are first spotted, it is not always possible for them to be immediately retrieved as they can weigh up to 4 tonnes and span a length of almost 1 kilometre.

Ghost nets pose a huge threat to marine life with fish, turtles, dolphins and seabirds often dying or becoming seriously injured through entanglement. Similarly, FADs are a navigation hazard for vessels and can trap marine species.

The trial of attaching GPS tracking devices to ghost nets is a collaboration between Parks Australia, AFMA, and ABF through Maritime Border Command (MBC) to improve how ghost nets are tracked and removed from Australia’s marine environment.

The Australian Government’s $14.8 million Ghost Nets Initiative is being delivered by Parks Australia in partnership with other government agencies, Indigenous ranger groups and stakeholders to improve the health of our ocean, reduce threats to our marine life and boost Indigenous employment.